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Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a non-communicable disease caused by glucose intolerance. Despite the fact that it can pose serious threats to pregnant women and their babies, GDM has been late in attracting the type and extent of global attention it deserves. Typically seen as a disease that goes into remission at the birth of the baby, GDM can nevertheless present serious threats to the mother in the ten years following her pregnancy (risk of developing type 2 diabetes and developing GDM in future pregnancies) and to the young infant (Obesity, respiratory problems, and later type 2 Diabetes).
How widespread or common GDM is, remains relatively unclear. The absence of globally accepted standards for screening and treatment of GDM is one of the reasons for this, and even today there are still many countries that do not routinely screen for GDM as part of antenatal care. The persisting lack of real attention to, and investment in, maternal health in general, is another underlying factor.
At ICMHD we believe GDM is a growing problem that is affecting some populations more than others. Our research suggests that some ethnic groups are far more vulnerable to it than others, and we also believe that the process of migration can be a precipitating factor. In a world in which the number of women on the move is now beginning to exceed the number of men, the problem of GDM in migrant groups and ethnic minorities calls for urgent attention.
ICMHD has made GDM one of its priorities and is working to improve international knowledge about its incidence and impact in different parts of the world and among different populations. We believe every mother-to-be and her child has the right to a healthy life and we hope that by raising awareness about the problem we will encourage more countries and stakeholders to take it up.
By: Emily Hertel