The condition impacting almost one in five western Sydney mums-to-be

Swetha Purba with her parents, Ram and Maya Ramamurthy, her husband, Ross Hickman and their three children Mia, Ari and Aanya.

Swetha Purba was in shock after learning she had gestational diabetes in her first pregnancy – a condition impacting almost one in five mums-to-be in western Sydney.

Characterised by high blood sugar, gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women who do not have diabetes otherwise and increases the risk of potentially dangerous complications such as pre-eclampsia.

“It was a bit of a blow,” the soon-to-be mother of four Swetha Purba said.

“I’ve always had a very fast metabolism, didn’t really have to work very hard to be slim and probably didn’t eat very well prior to that.

“The most stressful thing was I really didn’t want to become insulin-dependent so I became very rigorous about managing it with diet and exercise.”

Swetha Purba is a mum of three children, with another one on the way. She got gestational diabetes in her first pregnancy but managed to avoid getting it again in her second and current pregnancy.

Over the years there has been a significant increase of mothers-to-be with gestational diabetes in western Sydney.

The rate for pregnant women in western Sydney of having gestational diabetes throughout a pregnancy is 18 per cent.

Western Sydney has a large multicultural population with a high proportion of people with a South East Asian or Indian background, who are at greater risk of gestational diabetes.

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) is leading the charge on beating diabetes together as part of the Western Sydney Diabetes (WSD) initiative.

Ms Purba, 36, said she had a good support team during her first pregnancy, which included a dietitian and endocrinologist.

She avoided developing gestational diabetes in her second and current pregnancy.

“It was a mind-set change. I’m very mindful of how much sugar I’m taking in and have more awareness than I had in the past,” she said.

Swetha Purba with her husband Ross Hickman.

Besides potential complications during pregnancy, about one in three children from mothers with gestational diabetes are likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Western Sydney Diabetes and Healthy Living Toongabbie (HLT) hosted an online community forum with health experts to address gestational diabetes, pregnancy myths, dos and don’ts.

The online forum called Gestational Diabetes: What to Expect When You’re Expecting was held on Thursday, 25 March and can be watched here.

HLT is a group of passionate Toongabbie health practitioners, business people and residents concerned at the high number of residents in their community with Type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes.

Ms Purba joined guest speakers Dr Mani Manoharan, endocrinologist at Liverpool and Fairfield hospitals, and Professor Vicki Flood, from Western Sydney Local Health District and University of Sydney, to discuss her journey with GDM.