Almost half of postpartum women not screened for heart disease, diabetes: study


Monday, 29 January, 2024

Almost half of postpartum women not screened for heart disease, diabetes: study

About half of postpartum women in Australia with diagnosed gestational diabetes are not adequately screened for heart diseases and diabetes post-pregnancy, despite a severely heightened risk of developing the conditions. This is according to research published in the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ (RACP) Internal Medicine Journal.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, around 19% of all pregnant women experience gestational diabetes1, which significantly increases their risk of developing cardiovascular (heart) disease and diabetes after giving birth.

However, according to new research conducted by medical researchers at the University of Sydney, close to half, 48.2%, of all women diagnosed with gestational diabetes are not screened for the presence of cardiovascular disease risk factors and diabetes in the years following childbirth.

The research, which examined the medical records of over 10,413 women diagnosed with gestational diabetes over a four-year period post-childbirth, found that only 51.8% of women were assessed for diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure; 29.4% were not assessed for diabetes; and 37.4% were not assessed for high cholesterol.

Simone Marschner, Senior Research Fellow at the Westmead Applied Research Centre and one of the researchers leading the study, said that the findings were a cause for concern and highlighted the need for improved public health messaging.

“These findings reveal that many women with a heightened risk of developing serious medical conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, are not receiving adequate screening and hence preventative management.

“It is important to understand that early detection and proper management can help ensure that severe and long-term risks associated with cardiovascular diseases and diabetes are mitigated.

“A failure to identify the presence of these risk factors early and implement the proper management strategies can lead to women experiencing serious heart problems and other complications of diabetes, which could have been prevented.

“It is imperative that physicians across the country, especially ones tending to postpartum women, recognise the vital importance of adequate screening.

“There must also be greater efforts taken at public health messaging by governments at all levels, to help ensure that the instances of potential underdiagnosis are reduced to the minimum possible level. “We must all do our part in ensuring that women across Australia receive the medical care and attention they deserve,” she said.

[1] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/diabetes/diabetes/contents/how-common-is-diabetes/gestational-diabetes 

Image credit: iStock.com/SDI Productions

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