9 May 2012

Cameroon: Diabetes - Some 17 Percent Pregnant Women at Risk

This was revealed in a study recently on gestational diabetes in Cameroon.

A study to assess the magnitude of gestational diabetes which is first recognised in pregnant women indicates that the disease is a serious public health problem in the country as the number of pregnant women suffering from the illness varies between five to 17 percent.

According to the researcher, Dr Eugene Sobngwi, a Diabetologist at the Yaounde Central Hospital, the prevalence of gestational diabetes in Cameroon as well as the rest of sub-Saharan Africa was not well known before the study was carried out. He added that awareness about gestational diabetes was also lacking among both pregnant women and health care workers. Pregnant women have high risk of developing abnormalities of glucose metabolism. According to Dr Sobngwi, one woman out of ten runs the risk of having gestational diabetes in Cameroon. The risk increases with age and is high among women with three children or more.

The first phase of the study took place in six regions of Cameroon. In each region, five to eight antenatal clinics were selected. Training, educational and screening material were provided to the selected clinics. Over 400 health care workers were trained including nurses, midwives and doctors. Additionally, 50 traditional birth attendants and 30 health-oriented NGO's were trained for sensitisation. A total of 23,000 women who were between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy were screened for gestational diabetes. Researchers noted that key problems with gestational diabetes are: consequences on the mother and the baby as it can lead to increased risk of complications of pregnancy including premature delivery, miscarriage, foetal death, difficult delivery, higher rate of caesarean sections and hypertension in pregnancy. There is also an increased risk of developing diabetes later in life for both the mother and child.

The project, funded by the World Diabetes Foundation and the Ministry of Public Health, with scientific expertise from the Institute of Health and Society of Newcastle University, UK and the University of Yaounde 1, has as main finding the identification of a cheap and valid screening process for gestational diabetes which requires the measurement of blood glucose in women who are in a fasting state or not. The study has provided evidence that the cautious use of home blood glucose machines in antenatal clinics can help for screening even in remote health centres. The World Diabetes Foundation on their website has lauded the efforts by Cameroonian researchers to have provided a unique solution to a global problem that will certainly contribute to the reduction of maternal mortality.

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