Abu Dhabi: Leading a sedentary lifestyle, poor eating habits, and getting pregnant at a late age are just some of the causes of gestational diabetes (women developing diabetes during pregnancy), a condition whose incidence is as high as 22 per cent in the UAE.

Even though no specific reasons have yet been linked with gestational diabetes, doctors believe that the hormones produced by a woman's placenta during pregnancy increases her resistance to insulin, resulting in impaired glucose tolerance.

In order to detect inappropriately high levels of glucose in blood samples, doctors advice women to be screened between 24 to 28 weeks of gestation.

On the sidelines of a three-day International Obstetrics and Gynaecology (O&G) Conference being held for the first time in the Middle East, Dr Hesham Mirghani, associate professor in the Department of O&G at UAE University and chief of the Foetal Medicine Unit at Tawam Hospital, spoke to Gulf News on the importance of early screenings for pregnant women due to the less-than-clear symptoms of the condition.


"Uncontrolled diabetes encourages fat deposition in the foetus, which can lead to either delivering a macrosomia baby [an overweight new born], or to foetal death during the last two months of pregnancy," said Dr Mirghani, who added that other problems such as birth canal injury for the mother and neurological as well as bone problems to the baby can be a result of uncontrolled diabetes.

Another major cause of gestational diabetes is obesity, said Dr Bashir Taha Saleh, consultant obstetric physician, chief of service obstetric medicine at the Corniche Hospital, managed by Johns Hopkins Medicine International (JHMI).

According to Dr Saleh, around 20 to 30 per cent of women across the UAE are classified as obese and up to 40 per cent of diabetic pregnant women are Emiratis.

"Sugar levels must be tested and controlled one to two months prior to pregnancy, since diabetes affects the foetus from the first few weeks. I highly recommend that women seek pre-pregnancy counselling in order to understand more about the dangers of high sugar levels and diabetes before they get pregnant," said the health consultant.

Both experts confirmed that certain prescribed anti-diabetic tablets are safe to take during pregnancy, since they help control the blood sugar level, reduce the insulin resistance, and help the mother reduce some of her weight during pregnancy.

Conference: First  time in Middle Eeast

- The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) is holding its eighth International Scientific Meeting of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Abu Dhabi. The three-day event concludes tomorrow.

- The conference is being held for the first time in the Middle East, with 60 speakers arriving from Europe, US, Asia and the Middle East in addition to 1,500 registered health professionals and doctors from all over the world

- Topics of discussion are foetal medicine in the 21st century, improvements in the diagnosis and management of gynaecological cancers, modern management of sexual and reproductive health, professional development and global changes in postgraduate medical education

- According to Dr Mohammad Al Shaikh, head of the UAE RCOG Representative Committee and a Consultant Ob-Gyn at Al Corniche Hospital, which is managed by Johns Hopkins Medicine International, eight different workshops have been delivered to over 300 obstetricians, nurses and midwives, in correlation with the event.