Nearly 10 percent of women who are pregnant develop abnormally high levels of blood glucose during pregnancy (gestational diabetes), according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Blood glucose monitoring, changes in diet, and medication during pregnancy are often needed to avoid potential harm to the mother and baby.
Up to 30 percent of women who experience gestational diabetes will develop Type 2 diabetes as they age. Many of these women do not test their blood glucose levels as often as they should. Kathy Paez, a principal researcher at AIR, led a team of researchers to better understand why women at high risk avoid checking their blood glucose levels. The results of the study were first published in a report, Understanding Why Some Women with a History of Gestational Diabetes Do Not Get Tested for Diabetes, in the July-August, 2014 edition of Women’s Health Issues, and is also included in the journal’s special collection of women’s cardiovascular health in recognition of Heart Month 2015.
The study surveyed 139 women with a history of gestational diabetes, then conducted interviews with 22 women to provide a greater context. The survey found that 15 percent of the women had not been tested, and that visiting a primary care provider lowered the risk of not being tested by 72 percent. In interviews, women revealed that they were often unable to find time for primary care provider visits or to schedule appointments for blood testing. Moreover, information about the risk of future diabetes was not communicated to them during pregnancy, nor were they given consistent reminders about the need to test years after childbirth.
The study underscores the need for health care delivery systems to improve the connection between obstetrics and primary care for this population of women and to find ways to help new mothers integrate regular blood glucose testing and primary care visits into their schedules.