What is gestational diabetes and why is it so prevalent in urban Karnataka?

Gestational diabetes cases in urban Karnataka are higher than the national average.
What is gestational diabetes and why is it so prevalent in urban Karnataka?
What is gestational diabetes and why is it so prevalent in urban Karnataka?

According to recent studies, urban Karnataka is seeing a significant number of cases of gestational diabetes, standing higher than the national average of 15% of cases.

While a recent study by the Diabetes in Pregnancy Study Group of India (DIPSI) says that 15% of the cases of pregnancy-induced diabetes are from urban India, urban Karnataka notches up 15.8% of cases.

In comparison, rural Karnataka stands below the national average, with 9% of cases.

These statistics are worrisome for doctors, since India, as the diabetes capital of the world, has nearly 70 million adult diabetic patients.

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy, but is highly asymptomatic, which means that it’s presence is not easily detectable. It occurs because some placental hormones affect the action of insulin in the mother’s blood, which causes high blood sugar levels.

According to diabetes.org, the high glucose levels in the mother’s blood stream, increase secretion of insulin in the foetus, leading to higher fat deposits in the foetus and premature labour, and also increases the necessity for a caesarean birth. The infants in such cases are at higher risk for breathing problems and grow into children at risk for obesity and adults at risk for Type II diabetes.  

Bengaluru-based gynaecologist and director of Milann-The Fertility Centre, Dr Kamini Arvind Rao, says that as with Type-II diabetes, gestational diabetes too is brought on by stress. “Some pregnant women feel more stressed during this period. The usual symptoms of diabetes like increased hunger, thirst and urination will occur,” Rao says.

Women who have gestational diabetes are more vulnerable to Type-II diabetes later in life, and in many cases at a much younger age.

“Say a 25-year-old pregnant woman has gestational diabetes. If the disease is hereditary in her family, then there are higher chances that she will get it before she is 40 years old. Women, who have had gestational diabetes, must take extra care of their weight, diet and work-style,” Rao adds.

Why is urban Karnataka seeing more cases?

 Rao says that while lifestyle is a major cause for diabetes, other environmental factors also contribute to gestational diabetes.

“More cases in urban Karnataka is not surprising at all. Urban Karnataka essentially means Bengaluru. While the old Karnataka (indigenous) population might not necessarily be a major part of this number, the migrants from northern and eastern India – mostly IT employees, are,” says Rao.

Rao says that there has been an increase in the incidence of gestational diabetes in the current generations of the indigenous Karnataka population too. This, she says, is primarily because of a change in dietary patterns, where people who used to consume jowar, ragi and millets have moved to a rice-based diet.

“There has been a drastic change in the food habits on both sides. Cheese has become mandatory in the menu these days. In the north people are on wheat-based diets, which means consuming ghee, butter or cheese would not be a big problem. However, it is not the same for people from south India, whose diet is already high on cholesterol. So adding cheese and other fatty ingredients has only worsened the situation. Also, people prefer heat-and-eat food to freshly cooked food,” she says.

“Infections, obesity, working-style and pollution are also contributing factors to gestational diabetes. In my experience there have been many cases in the last few years,” Rao added.

While there is no surefire to prevent gestational diabetes, says Rao, there are steps women can take to ensure no lasting damage is caused by it. "They must have regular blood tests during the pregnancy period as it is better if it is detected as early as possible. Medication that is prescribed must be followed without fail. Proper diet and exercise is a must. They must also make sure they don't take up stress-inducing jobs in the period. While this is a general advice given to all pregnant women, women diagnosed with gestational diabetes must take extra care," she says.

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