1 in 7 pregnant Australian women affected by gestational diabetes

More than 40,000 women who gave birth during 2016–17 were diagnosed with gestational diabetes, according to a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Incidence of gestational diabetes in Australia, presents data from the National Hospital Morbidity Database which found 15% of women who gave birth in hospital in 2016–17 had gestational diabetes.

‘Gestational diabetes is a type of glucose intolerance that develops or is first recognised during pregnancy, mostly in the second or third trimester,’ said AIHW spokesperson Ms Miriam Lum On.

‘Women with gestational diabetes are more likely to experience adverse outcomes during pregnancy and delivery, such as pre-eclampsia, induced labour, caesarean section and pre-term labour.’

New diagnostic guidelines for gestational diabetes were implemented in most jurisdictions by mid-2016 and likely contributed to increased rates of reported gestational diabetes; from 5% in 2000–01 to 15% in 2016–17.

This increase was consistent across all states and territories, with slightly higher rates in in the ACT and the NT (both 17%) and lower in WA (12%).

‘Incidence for gestational diabetes varies in different population groups. Women with gestational diabetes are more likely to be older, with over a quarter of pregnant women aged 45–49 affected,’ Ms Lum On said.

‘Ethnicity and socioeconomic group may also influence the incidence of gestational diabetes. Women were more likely to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes if they were born in Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, or if they were socioeconomically disadvantaged.’

The report also shows that — after adjusting for age — the incidence rate of gestational diabetes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women was 1.3 times higher than for non-Indigenous women.

Most women managed gestational diabetes without medications through the use of diet, exercise and/or lifestyle management, while one third of women were treated with insulin therapy.

‘Gestational diabetes usually resolves after the baby is born, but can often recur in later pregnancies and greatly increases the risk, both for the mother and baby, of developing type 2 diabetes in later life,’ Ms Lum On said. 

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