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Shedding the stigma around gestational diabetes

Project summary

Gestational diabetes can develop during pregnancy. People with the condition can experience high levels of stigma both during and after pregnancy, which can have a negative effect on both mental and physical health. Dr Rita Forde will work with women who have experience of gestational diabetes and healthcare professionals to develop and share communication tools that aim raise awareness of and combat gestational diabetes related stigma. 

Background to research

We know that too many people with diabetes experience stigma and that this can take a real toll on their health and wellbeing. Diabetes-related stigma involves negative attitudes about diabetes, which can create feelings of exclusion, blame or shame. 

Pregnancy is a time when people can face even greater judgement and scrutiny over their diet, physical activity levels or other health related behaviours. And this could mean people with gestational diabetes may face even more stigma. Research has shown that people with the condition experience negative stereotyping such as ‘being lazy’, having ‘poor eating habits’ and ‘lack of willpower’ from both healthcare professionals and others. 

At the moment, there are no interventions to help combat gestational diabetes-related stigma. 

Research aims

Together with women who have first-hand experience of gestational diabetes, Dr Forde and her team will create and explore the impact of anti-stigma animations and communication tools.  

Firstly, Dr Forde and her team will pinpoint different sources of stigma. They will run different interactive group sessions with women who have or have had gestational diabetes, their family members and healthcare professionals. The sessions will explore language, situations and stereotypes that trigger stigma, and things that can be done to manage these. 

The groups will then work with a storyteller and animator to co-create short films and other communication tools that challenge these stigmatising narratives. These will be shared with the public and healthcare professionals to begin. 

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

There’s an urgent need to find better ways to reduce stigma in people with gestational diabetes. Reducing stigma related to gestational diabetes has both short and longer-term benefits. More immediately, it could help to build more positive relationships between people with gestational diabetes and healthcare professionals, reduce feelings of blame and improve emotional wellbeing. All of this could help people with or who’ve had gestational diabetes to engage more positively with their own health.  

Further down the line, these benefits could also help to reduce the higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life that people with gestational diabetes face.  

The study also has the potential to provide a template for developing anti-stigma interventions for other groups of people with diabetes. 

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