Women’s Hospital – a member of Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) – is encouraging women in Qatar to get tested for gestational diabetes (GDM) early in their pregnancy to prevent complications.

Senior Consultant at Women’s Hospital, Dr Faten Al Taher, stated:

Women may be at particular risk of having gestational diabetes if they are overweight and have a body mass index of 25 kg/m2 or greater. Women who are sedentary and have a family history of type 2 diabetes, or have high blood pressure and smoke are at an increased risk. In addition, those who suffer from high cholesterol, have a history of polycystic ovarian syndrome or have had a baby weighing four kilograms or more, are at an even greater risk.’

According to the International Diabetes Federation, approximately 33% of pregnant women in Qatar have GDM. Senior Staff Nurse at Women’s Hospital, Moufida Bent Belgacemazeke, said:

This is largely due to leading an unhealthy lifestyle or having a history of diabetes in the family. In order to be proactive about checking for GDM early, all patients booked at the primary healthcare centers are routinely tested through fasting and checking the patient’s blood sugar. At this point, patients that are high risk are checked again at 16 weeks of pregnancy, and those that test normal are checked again at 24-28 weeks of pregnancy through a glucose tolerance test.’

The World Health Organization (WHO) also concurs that GDM is a serious condition, resulting in birthing complications, an increase in Cesarean section births, large babies and a higher risk of obesity for the baby in later years. Dr Al Taher explained further:

If GDM is caught early, we can manage the treatment of our patients more effectively by putting them on a special diet. If their blood sugar is still not controlled they will be prescribed oral medication and then if this is not effective they will be administered insulin to manage their diabetic condition. Women that are diabetic should consult their physician three months prior to pregnancy. Doctors will be able to provide valuable advice to control the patient’s diabetes such as taking 5ml of folic acid daily and adjusting their sugar beforehand. Doctors will also take proactive measures with the patient such as ensuring there are no issues with their eyes and kidneys before pregnancy. The reality is, if a woman has high blood sugar during her pregnancy, she is at high risk of having a miscarriage or having a baby with abnormalities.’

Women diagnosed with GDM will also be referred to a dietician at Women’s Hospital who will work with them to control diet and regulate blood sugar levels. The dietician will suggest lifestyle changes such as adding more physical activity into their daily routine. Dietician Supervisor at Women’s Hospital, Rihab Elsheikh Elsanosi, said:

It is essential for women to take better care of themselves by living a healthy lifestyle. As mothers, women will be the healthcare champions and role models for their families.’

Elsanosi also counselled diabetic women to distribute their daily food intake throughout the day to include three main meals and three snacks. She recommends that these women do not skip any meals or go for long periods of time without eating and, that they consume fewer carbohydrates at breakfast because blood sugar levels tend to be higher early in the morning.

She advised that women should choose whole grains including whole-wheat bread, brown rice, or whole-wheat pasta, instead of white bread, white rice, or white flour based pasta. They should also increase their vegetables servings to at least five servings a day and limit their fruit intake to two to three portions per day, preferably consuming them at different times as a snack.

According to Elsanosi, diabetic women should eat lean cuts of meat and low or fat-free dairy products such as skimmed milk, non-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese, which are healthier alternatives. She said:

Diabetic women should cook with liquid oils (olive, canola) instead of solid fats (butter, margarine, shortening) when preparing meals. They should also avoid high-calorie snacks and desserts, including soda with sugar, fruit punch, candy, chips, cookies, cakes, and full-fat ice cream.’

Women’s Hospital offers daily nutritional counselling without an appointment (walk-in clinic) and a weekly group education clinic in English, Arabic and Hindi, every Monday from 11 am – 12 pm, aimed at educating women on living with diabetes and offering preventative counseling to help them avoid this chronic disease.

Women with type 1 or type 2 diabetes will be referred to a Women’s Hospital diabetes educator for general counselling about the disease and the risks. They will also gain information on how to administer insulin injections, treat low and high blood sugar, how to use a glucometer, chart their blood sugar levels and follow home glucose monitoring.

HMC has been the principal public healthcare provider in the state of Qatar for over three decades. HMC manages eight hospitals, incorporating five specialist hospitals and three community hospitals. HMC also manages the National Ambulance Service as well as home and residential care, all accredited by Joint Commission International. HMC is leading the development of the region’s first academic health system and is committed to building a legacy of healthcare expertise in Qatar. HMC collaborate with partners who are key experts in Qatar and beyond, including Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and Partners Healthcare, Boston.

Furthermore, all patients have access to a diabetic hotline: 4439 6980 to access diabetic counselling, five days a week (Sunday to Thursday) from 8 am – 2 pm.