Diabetes experts at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) are advising pregnant women to only obtain medical information from trusted sources and to use good judgment when reading medical information shared through social media. They are also highlighting the importance of the glucose tolerance test – used to screen for gestational diabetes.
“Gestational diabetes occurs when a pregnant woman who hasn’t had diabetes before pregnancy has high blood sugar levels as a result of the pregnancy. Gestational diabetes occurs in some of pregnancies and can cause serious pregnancy complications,” said Dr. Mohammed Bashir, Diabetes and Endocrine Consultant at HMC and Head of the Diabetes Clinic at the Women’s Wellness and Research Center (WWRC).
The glucose tolerance test identifies abnormalities in the way a pregnant woman’s body handles glucose and is a standard screening performed during the first part of the third trimester of pregnancy. Both Dr. Bashir and Ms. Manal Othman, Director of Diabetes Education at HMC, say inaccurate messages circulated on social media about the glucose tolerance test are particularly concerning because they have the potential to cause serious health problems for both pregnant women and their unborn babies.
“More and more people are turning to social media for health advice. I routinely have patients telling me about postings they have seen online for miracle foods that claim to cure diabetes or asking my opinion about a new medication or vitamin because of a testimonial they have read on social media. Getting medical advice from social media can lead to very ineffective – and dangerous – consequences. People can share false information with the click of a button,” said Ms. Othman.
Dr. Bashir says it is important for expectant mothers to be informed about the various aspects of pregnancy healthcare but he stresses the significance of getting the information from the right people.
“Don’t believe everything you read online, even if the information is being shared by a friend or relative. Be critical when reading postings or watching videos,” says Dr. Bashir.
“It’s important that pregnant women don’t confuse experience and anecdotal evidence with expertise. If you come across something online that you’re not sure about, don’t be afraid to consult with your doctor or another member of your healthcare team. This is sound advice for everyone but it is particularly important for pregnant women. The choices a woman makes during her pregnancy will have consequences for both her and her unborn baby,” added Dr. Bashir.
The glucose tolerance test to screen for gestational diabetes is normally administered between weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy by a woman’s primary healthcare doctor. The test involves drinking a quantity of sugar (75 grams) and evaluating, through bloodwork, the woman’s ability to process sugar.
“While the amount of sugar consumed as part of the test may seem like a lot, it is comparable to 400mls of 100% pure juice or a cup and a half of grapes. Many people consume similar amounts of sugar in their daily routine. Without screening for hyperglycemia (high rates of blood sugar) during pregnancy, the unborn baby is exposed to several risks, including high birth weight (over 4kg), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), jaundice, prematurity, and a heart and/or lung defect. There are also risks to the mother’s health. I would encourage any woman who is anxious about the glucose tolerance test to talk to her doctor about the risks and benefits,” said Dr. Bashir.
Dr. Bashir says the test is especially important for women who are at an increased risk for developing gestational diabetes but notes that women with no risk factor also develop the condition.
“Gestational diabetes in an earlier pregnancy, a family history of diabetes, age, obesity, and having a medical condition associated with the development of diabetes, such as metabolic syndrome or polycystic ovary syndrome, are all risk factors for developing gestational diabetes. It is important to note that women with no risk factors do develop gestational diabetes, underscoring the importance of testing all pregnant women,” added Dr. Bashir.