Sweet-P gives birth to diabetes tool for pregnant women

Blacktown Hospital endocrinologist Dr Sue Lynn Lau with a patient.

A new booklet has been designed to help reduce the escalating rates of gestational diabetes among sub-continental women in western Sydney.

As part of the Sweet-P project (Sub-continental Women: Education and Engagement Through Pregnancy), the educational resource aims to prevent the onset of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) in more than 700 women of Indian, Fijian Indian, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, Nepali, or Pakistani origin delivering at Blacktown Hospital every year.

Triggered by alarming rates of GDM (which have almost tripled from 7.3% in 2002, to 14.5% in 2012, and 20% in 2014), the booklet couldn’t come at a better time, said Blacktown Hospital endocrinologist Dr Sue Lynn Lau, who is piloting the booklet.

Sweet-P has been designed to help women from sub-continental backgrounds understand their risk of developing diabetes in pregnancy and take steps to reduce the possibility,” she said.

“Reports suggest sub-continental women are three times more likely to develop GDM than Australian-born women, and those from Pakistan and Bangladesh are at particularly high risk, with rates of more than 30 per cent.

“However, the increase is unexplained; while obesity, being overweight and physical inactivity are risk factors for diabetes, we found BMI had only increased about one unit over the past 10 years for these women.”

Created with the assistance of a $15,000 grant from Novo Nordisk Regional Diabetes Support Scheme, Sweet-P includes education about GDM, healthy weight gain in pregnancy, eating tips, physical activity guidelines, and information on how traditional beliefs like “eating for two” or avoiding exercise in pregnancy can negatively impact outcomes.

“It’s a big problem in our area; as clinicians, we can either sit back and watch our clinics overflow every year, or we can try to do something about it,” Dr Lau said.

“Gestational diabetes increases the risk of premature birth, admission to neonatal intensive care, excessive birth weight, infants who struggle with hypoglycaemia after birth and ongoing health issues for the child such as an increased likelihood (30 per cent) of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.”

Half of the women with GDM will develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years.

The booklet is planned for distribution to women through GPs in the Blacktown area.

“Normally we don’t test women for GDM until 26 weeks of pregnancy. By starting this type of intervention at 4-6 weeks, when they first discover they are pregnant, we are giving them a chance to take control of their health and manage their risk early,” Dr Lau said.


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