Undetected gestational diabetes in pregnancy dangerous, can cause complications, endocrinologist warns

Undetected gestational diabetes in pregnancy dangerous, can cause complications, endocrinologist warns

Angela Onwuzoo<

A Professor of Medicine at the College of Medicine, Lagos State University, Prof. Anthonia Ogbera, has urged pregnant women in Nigeria to pay better attention to gestational diabetes, noting that the health condition can cause serious complications in pregnancy when it is not detected and treated.

According to the endocrinologist, many women in Nigeria are not aware of gestational diabetes and its associated risks.

Prof. Ogbera said women that are obese and those with a family history of diabetes and hypertension are at risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy.

The professor who is also a Consultant Physician/ Endocrinologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, disclosed this during an interview with PUNCH HealthWise in Lagos.

Ogbera urged pregnant women in the country to always go for diabetes screening during their first antenatal visit.

The endocrinologist noted that when gestational diabetes is detected early, it enables the physician to offer appropriate and better care to the woman.

According to her, if gestational diabetes is not detected on time, it could lead to complications in pregnancy.

Prof. Ogbera said, “If it is not detected early or not detected at all, the mother and the baby will be at risk of developing complications. 

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“For women who have gestational diabetes, after six weeks of delivery, they should be screened to see if the diabetes is still there because for some, it will go away and for others, it will still be there.

“Four to 14 per cent of women in Nigeria have diabetes in pregnancy and women at risk of developing diabetes in pregnancy are those that are obese; women with a family history of diabetes and women with hypertension.

“Others are women with diabetes in previous pregnancy and women who are getting pregnant above 25 years.”

According to the World Health Organisation, diabetes in pregnancy is associated with adverse maternal and perinatal outcomes.

Gestational diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a type of diabetes that is first seen in a pregnant woman who did not have diabetes before she was pregnant.

The physician, however, said that some women may not have these risk factors but still develop diabetes in pregnancy.

“But the chances are lower. So, we advise that women who come for antenatal for the first time should be screened for diabetes. If the woman is negative and she has risk factors for diabetes, the woman should be screened again at about 24 weeks or 28 weeks of pregnancy by the physician,” she said.

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The physician stated that diabetes during pregnancy is contributing to maternal and infant deaths.

Highlighting the complications of diabetes in pregnancy, the endocrinologist said, “If it is not detected early, some of the problems the mother will have are diabetes retinopathy- the eyes will be affected; the kidneys could be affected, she will develop hypertension.

“Other complications are protein in the urine, preeclampsia and stroke especially when she has both hypertension and diabetes. In fact, that will be very bad.

“The woman is also at risk of miscarriage and sometimes, stillbirth. They are also at risk of developing Type-2 diabetes later in life.”

Continuing, she said, “Now, the babies are also faced with complications as they become big – macrosomia. The baby will come out big and if the woman is having a vaginal delivery, the shoulder of the baby may be affected.

“The babies are prone to having heart complications; the child could later develop neurological problems like attention deficit and learning problems.

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“When the baby is delivered, if you don’t have a proper medical team on the ground, the baby is at risk of jaundice and the baby is also at risk of developing diabetes later in life.”

Prof. Ogbera noted that though most women with gestational diabetes do not have symptoms, others experience weight loss, frequent urination and excessive water intake.

She pointed out that many Nigerian women were not aware of gestational diabetes let alone its associated risk.

“Even among the educated, we don’t have that awareness. The awareness is poor among women in Nigeria. But we expect a standard hospital to give information on this; counsel and screen them. Pregnant women should be properly screened for diabetes during pregnancy but the awareness is not there. So we need to create more awareness about it,” she said.

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