What is the postpartum experience of Danish women following gestational diabetes? A qualitative exploration

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Abstract

Background

Women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) receive acute but short-term care during pregnancy. There is less direct support during the postpartum period; women are offered general advice on how to follow a healthy lifestyle to avoid developing future type 2 diabetes. Observational studies suggest that a substantial proportion of women with prior GDM do not sustain recommended lifestyle changes postpartum. In a qualitative study, we examined how Danish women diagnosed with GDM experience the transition from a GDM-affected pregnancy to the postpartum period.

Methods

Semistructured interviews with six women diagnosed with GDM. Data were analysed using qualitative content analysis.

Results

A GDM diagnosis was accompanied by worries about the health of the woman's baby. This was also the driving force behind the women's motivation to engage in lifestyle changes during pregnancy. The outpatient treatment was perceived to be strict and associated with various challenges, including cravings and discomfort. After the delivery, taking care of the baby became the women's dominant focus. Social and emotional support from partners were needed to maintain motivation and prioritise a healthy lifestyle. The women's experience of the health system varied. However, in the postpartum period all the women experienced limited interaction and initiative from their healthcare providers in supporting them to engage in a healthy lifestyle.

Conclusions

This study identified barriers and facilitators to sustaining a healthy lifestyle postpartum. Efforts at multiple levels – including the individual, family and health system – are needed to facilitate and support a healthy lifestyle among women with prior GDM.

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