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It is time to implement a “standard approach” to screening for diabetes during pregnancy in the nation’s hospitals to secure the wellbeing of future generations. So said Prof Surujpal Teelucksingh, professor of Medicine at the University of the West Indies and past recipient of the Anthony Sabga Caribbean Award for Excellence, when he addressed the 23rd Triennial Meeting of the Commonwealth Medical Association (CMA). Teelucksingh said the country could do much better in dealing with diabetes in pregnancy.
Diabetes is a disease which disrupts the body’s ability to regulate its blood sugar level. Gestational diabetes (GD) is said to occur when diabetes develop during pregnancy. Teelucksingh said out of the 20,000 pregnancies annually in T&T, 3,000 involved women who had GD, making it the commonest problem during pregnancy. Data from the Ministry of Health, he said, showed that about 20 per cent of girls in T&T between the ages 19 and 24 showed signs of diabetes.
These girls, who are in their prime reproductive age, were likely to carry diabetes into pregnancy, he added. Teelucksingh said diabetes during pregnancy carried an eight-fold increased risk of foetal abnormalities, a four-fold increased risk of admission to the neonatal intensive care unit and a three-fold increased risk of trauma to both mother and child. “There is still no standard approach to either diagnosing it, identifying it, or treating it,” Teelucksingh said about GD in women in T&T.
Saying more attention needed to be placed on GD, he added: “We screen every woman for anaemia, HIV, and syphilis, and the prevalence of those are probably all less than five per cent. Diabetes is 22 per cent.” In calling for the matter to be addressed urgently, Teelucksingh said it would cost about $12 million to get the screening process off the ground, and about $6 million a year to keep it running.
Describing the benefit of implementing routine screening for diabetes in pregnancy, he said: “Treating diabetes in pregnancy yields good outcomes as it reduces foetal and maternal risks.”