Gestational diabetes mellitus experiences of pregnant women, midwives, and obstetricians and the performance of screening

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå university

Abstract: In Sweden, there is currently no consensus addressing the screening, diagnostics and treatment of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). In addition, there is little knowledge on the impact of GDM on the daily life of pregnant women and the experiences of health care professionals providing maternal health care to women with GDM. Using different perspectives, this thesis examines the experiences of GDM and the performance of screening for GDM in a regional context in Sweden. The studies used qualitative and quantitative methods. In the qualitative studies, grounded theory was applied in two studies and qualitative content analysis in one study. In the quantitative study, a combination of questionnaire data and data from medical records of pregnancy and birth were processed.Surprisingly, screening for GDM was reduced despite local clinical guidelines stipulating the risk factors indicating an OGTT. Furthermore, the prevalence of the risk factors for GDM in the population investigated was almost doubled compared to previous Swedish studies. Pregnant women developing risk factors for GDM during pregnancy were found to be at substantially increased risk of giving birth to an infant with macrosomia. The experiences of pregnant women with GDM revealed that being diagnosed with and living with GDM during pregnancy might be understood as a process ‘from stun to gradual balance’. The experience comprised both negative and positive dimensions. Despite the challenges, the inconveniences and the changes involved, gradually adapting to an altered lifestyle and finding their balance in daily life was ‘the prize’ the women ‘were willing to pay’ to secure optimal maternal and foetal health. The experiences of midwives comprised managing conflicting demands providing antenatal care to pregnant women diagnosed with GDM. Most midwives felt the obligation to control and monitor the complicated pregnancy, to initiate and motivate the recommended changes in life style together with providing an empowering and caring relation with the women. These assignments disclosed complex conflicting situations and the midwives appeared to choose strategy for managing the situation depending on their perception of the circumstances. The experiences of the obstetricians were understood as ‘dealing with ambiguity’. The ambiguity permeated all aspects of working as an obstetrician within the maternal health care counselling women with GDM: the role of the obstetrician, the context of the organization, balancing the multifaceted interests of the maternal and foetal conditions and the lack of consensus, recommendations and evidence-based knowledge.  The studies revealed the complexity of the situation for the affected pregnant women as well as for the health care professionals providing antenatal care to women diagnosed with GDM. Furthermore, the performance of screening of GDM in pregnant women with risk factors for GDM was insufficient in the investigated region. The findings in this thesis may be useful to increase knowledge of the experiences of pregnant women living with or managing GDM. The findings may also be useful when planning for improvements of maternal health care directed to pregnant women diagnosed with GDM during pregnancy.