12 Striking Photos Show What It's Like to Develop Diabetes in Pregnancy – Women Deliver

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12 Striking Photos Show What It’s Like to Develop Diabetes in Pregnancy

By Hayley MacMillen | Allure | 14 November 2017

Women Deliver / Jesper Westley Jørgensen

At De Soysa Hospital for Women in Sri Lanka, Nayani Nimeshika, 21, is one of the growing number of women treated for gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is on the rise, now affecting one in seven births around the world. Three-quarters of the women affected live in low- and middle-income countries, where pregnancy and childbirth is already one of the most dangerous times in a woman's life.

With no family history of diabetes, Nayani never thought she'd be at risk. Three months into her pregnancy during a routine checkup at her local clinic, Nayani's latest blood glucose test came back. That's when everything changed.

But she put fear aside and took action: “Whatever I have to do for the unborn child in order not harm it, I will do,” she said. With diet change, an exercise plan, and insulin, Nayani managed her diabetes well enough to have a normal birth and healthy baby girl. Unfortunately, stories of gestational diabetes don't always end this happily.

And in many countries, screening for gestational diabetes is not a part of standard prenatal care. The diagnostic needs of pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries are often ignored, even though those regions account for 85 percent of babies born every year and 88 percent of gestational diabetes cases.

Without this vigilance, she may have never known of her condition and never accessed De Soysa Hospital for treatment — and her outcome might have been very different.

Children born to mothers with gestational diabetes are four to eight times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life, while baby girls of mothers with gestational diabetes are more like to suffer similar challenges during their own pregnancies — thereby perpetuating a vicious cycle of intergenerational ill health. It's crucial that Nayani's daughter is regularly monitored.

Gestational diabetes can affect many aspects of pregnancy and childbirth.

Gestational diabetes, for example, may necessitate delivery by cesarean section.

Here, Nayani smiles with her baby and nurses Kalani Rajasekara, right, and A.A.I. Shalika. Nurse Rajasekara has been a Diabetes Educator Nursing Officer for three years in a project established the Sri Lanka Medical Association under the Diabetes Prevention Task Force with the help of the World Diabetes Foundation. After attending a World Diabetes Day program course, she was inspired to become an expert on diabetes management to better serve her patients. "I feel I am making a difference," she says.

Here, Nayani checks on her daughter, protected beneath a mosquito net. After the birth of her child, she says she is determined to continue the health changes she started during pregnancy.

At De Soysa Hospital for Women in Sri Lanka, health workers are desperately trying to turn this trend around. The screening and care they provide is likely to have a multi-generational impact on their patients and their families, as well as on health care systems and budgets.

The time to take action is now.

Today, it is the story of Nayani. Tomorrow, the stories of more women will follow, unless we act now to turn the tide on this silent epidemic. Find out more about gestational diabetes and what can be done to fight it here.