New innovations to improve care for women with diabetes in pregnancy
Currently women are required to prick their fingers four times a day, record this in a book and then have a face-to-face appointment once a fortnight. This new app and the changes that will be made to specialist midwives job plans will mean daily virtual clinics with midwives, run via the app and phone. Every day, midwives will go through all of the information received and contact anyone who needs support to get their blood pressure under control. Too often at present, such regular face-to-face appointments for diabetes in pregnancy can overly medicalise their pregnancy, increase anxiety, result in lots of time spent at the hospital and take away a woman’s feeling of control over their pregnancy as it is closely monitored by medical professionals.
Research has shown that gestational diabetes can be an indicator that a woman is more likely to develop diabetes later in life, and that the children of mothers with gestational diabetes are more likely to be obese and to develop diabetes themselves. Risk factors for this condition include increased body mass index, maternal age and non-caucasian ethnicity, factors which are present in south London’s population. Effective interventions that support education around diet, weight and exercise are essential to try and prevent poor health later in life.
There are three main aspects to the pilot:
• Using a new app, women will upload the sugar measurements they take four times each day so it can be reviewed in real-time by specialist midwives. Work arrangements for the midwives will be redesigned to ensure that there is someone available Monday to Friday to answer queries by phone or email, and proactively monitor results – so that the team can act more quickly with diet advice or medication adjustments to improve sugar control and reduce the risks to mother and baby.
• The team will also seize the opportunities of the waiting room to create a ‘connected waiting room’ that encourages exercise, healthy eating and peer bonding to help women explore ways to maintain good sugar levels alongside a healthy pregnancy. The waiting room is a key opportunity as women will often have appointments with more than one team member in the clinic, meaning that there is time spent in the room between appointments. To maximise the value of that time, the team will bring the room alive and introduce a library of recipe books, posters around diet and exercise in pregnancy and conversation prompts to encourage women to talk to each other. They will also hold drop-in education sessions covering diet tips, breast feeding advice, first aid for newborns and other topics suggested by the women using the service.
• To support the women in their care further, the team plans to pilot guided tours in a local supermarket, where they will guide women through changes they can make to their weekly shopping and hold an education session on healthy eating at the supermarket, suggesting alternatives and exploring barriers to change.
The project aims to reduce caesareans and interventions in birth through more responsive antenatal care as well as increasing the space for education around food and exercise. The plans are also designed to improve continuity of care. Most women with gestational diabetes are diagnosed at around 28 weeks. When their care is transferred to the diabetic clinic it breaks already established relationships with their community midwifery team.
The new app’s ability to monitor sugars more easily and remotely should mean that women need two fewer face-to-face appointments with the diabetic clinic. Instead, women can then make two appointments with their usual community midwifery teams, maintaining consistent contact with the team that will support them when they deliver their baby and in the community after delivery. Continuity of carer is proven to reduce preterm birth and pregnancy loss, as well as increasing maternal satisfaction with the care received. The team predict that if successful, the pilot could move as many as 600 appointments each year back into community settings.
Caroline Everden, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Lead for diabetes in pregnancy, Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“It’s really exciting when you see something and realise the impact it can have on the women you care for. Women’s time in pregnancy is valuable and we want to use it effectively as we can. Whether it’s through the app to monitor sugars more easily, making the most of the waiting room or by giving them more time back to spend with community midwifery teams, we believe that there is more we can do.
“Our model will hopefully demonstrate that specialist input and education can be delivered in a way that values and supports the relationship established between a woman and her midwife, while also ensuring that expert attention is paid to a potentially very serious condition in pregnancy.”
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