Women’s accounts of the gestational diabetes experience – a South African perspective
Background. Considering the perspectives of African women affected by gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) may facilitate the development of culturally sensitive interventions to address this public health concern.
Objective. To identify the personal experiences, challenges, coping strategies and health decisions made by urban indigenous South African women affected by GDM.
Methods. The experiences of urban African women (n=10) previously affected by GDM were documented during focus group discussions. The Diabetes Conversation Map educational instrument was used to facilitate discussions. Sessions were audio-recorded, transcribed and thematically analysed.
Results. Participants experienced shock and fear on diagnosis of GDM, but family support and sharing their experiences with their peers provided relief from anxiety. They were aware of the inconsistent implementation of GDM diagnostic procedures at tertiary hospitals and community health clinics, which exacerbated their confusion. Despite their initial difficulty in adjusting to a diet perceived as unpalatable, adopting a healthier lifestyle was considered a positive consequence of a GDM diagnosis. Healthy lifestyle changes were partially retained post partum and were reported to have a positive effect on other family members. The participants had little awareness of their long-term risk of developing diabetes mellitus and the need for regular follow-up screening. Unexpectedly, the majority of participants concurred that being HIV-positive would be less stressful than living with diabetes.
Conclusion. Participants viewed being HIV-positive as preferable to having GDM, which may reflect the distress caused by inadequate pretest counselling, inconsistent health information, inconsistent screening practices and suboptimal support from healthcare professionals.
L M Dickson, MRC Developmental Pathways to Health Research Unit, Department of Paediatrics, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
E Buchmann, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
A Norris, MRC Developmental Pathways to Health Research Unit, Department of Paediatrics, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
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Date published: 2020-08-17
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