Hi, it’s Dr. Curry-Winchell. Today, I want to discuss a significant health issue that often goes undiscussed. Gestational diabetes, especially as it pertains to the Black maternal health crisis in the United States.
In honor of National Diabetes Month and the current Maternal Health crisis I partnered with She Knows to highlight this growing concern. You can find my article from She Knows HERE
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a condition that can develop during pregnancy. It is usually diagnosed through screening between the 24th and 28th weeks. The exact cause is not fully understood, it’s thought to be linked to hormonal changes in pregnancy. Symptoms can be subtle, such as increased thirst and frequent urination, or non-existent, making it a potentially silent threat.
The condition not only affects mothers by increasing the likelihood of complications like premature birth and cesarean sections, but it also impacts infants, who may face respiratory difficulties, future obesity, and a higher diabetes risk later in life.
The Impact on Black Maternal Health
Alarmingly, gestational diabetes is a gateway to type 2 diabetes postpartum. Research shows that Black women are disproportionately diagnosed with type 2 diabetes following gestational diabetes, this disparity could be due to a lack of consistent screenings post-childbirth, as symptoms may be mistakenly attributed to typical postpartum recovery.
Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition where the pancreas either doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body becomes insulin resistant. This can lead to severe health issues, including vision loss, nerve damage, and increased risk of kidney and heart diseases — conditions that already have a higher mortality rate among Black individuals.
The Importance of Advocacy and Screening
Advocacy is crucial in addressing this health crisis. The healthcare system’s systemic racism and unconscious biases often lead to the dismissal of Black women’s pain and concerns. I speak from personal experience. As a physician within the healthcare system, I encountered life-threatening challenges during my childbirth due to my pain being overlooked.
For those diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it’s critical to request diabetes screenings after giving birth. As healthcare providers, we must confront unconscious biases and eradicate race-based medicine to improve health outcomes for all mothers and children.
In conclusion, while gestational diabetes is a complex condition with profound implications for maternal health, awareness and proactive management can lead to better outcomes. Help spread awareness, share this article with loved ones and those that can benefit from the information. Increased health literacy gives everyone a better opportunity to advocate for their own health. Greater awareness helps bring light to disparities and of course helps bring change.
Stay informed and prioritize your health!
– Dr. Curry-Winchell (Dr. BCW)