Aims: Preconception care may decrease adverse pregnancy outcomes associated with pre-existing diabetes mellitus. Aboriginal Australians are at high risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), with earlier onset. We explored practitioner views on preconception care delivery for women with T2DM in the Northern Territory, where 31% of births are to Aboriginal women.
Methods: Mixed-methods study including cross-sectional survey of 156 health practitioners and 11 semi-structured interviews.
Results: Practitioners reported low attendance for preconception care however, 51% provided counselling on an opportunistic basis. Rural/remote practitioners were most likely to find counselling feasible. The majority (69%) utilised appropriate guidelines and addressed lifestyle modifications including smoking (81%), weight management (79%), and change medications appropriately such as ceasing ACE inhibitors (69%). Fewer (40%) prescribed the recommended dose of folate (5 mg) or felt comfortable recommending delaying pregnancy to achieve optimal preconception glucose control (42%). Themes identified as barriers to care included the complexity of care setting and infrequent preconception consultations. There was a focus on motivation of women to make informed choices about conception, including birth spacing, timing and contraception. Preconception care enablers included cross-cultural communication, a multi-disciplinary care team and strong client-based relationships.
Conclusions: Health practitioners are keen to provide preconception counselling and reported knowledge of evidence-based guidelines. Improvements are needed in recommending high dose folate and optimising glucose control. Cross-cultural communication and team-based care were reported as fundamental to successful preconception care in women with T2DM. Continued education and policy changes are required to support practitioners in opportunities to enhance pregnancy planning.