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Keywords:

  • beliefs about health/illness/health care;
  • gestational diabetes mellitus;
  • migrants/Middle Eastern;
  • prospective study;
  • self-care;
  • semi-structured interviews

Aims and objectives.  To explore the development over time of beliefs about health, illness and health care in migrant women with gestational diabetes mellitus born in the Middle East and living in Sweden and to study the influence on self-care and care seeking.

Background.  With today’s extensive global migration, contact with the new society/health care confronts the migrant’s culture of origin with the culture of the host country. The question is whether immigrants’ patterns of beliefs about health, illness and health-related behaviour change over time, as no previous studies have been found on this topic.

Design.  A qualitative prospective exploratory study.

Methods.  Semi-structured interviews, with 14 women (28–44 years), on three occasions: during pregnancy in gestational weeks 34–38 and three and 14 months after delivery.

Results.  There was a U-shaped development of beliefs, from focusing on worries about the baby’s health during pregnancy and trying to comply with advice from health professionals, particularly a healthy diet, through regression to dietary habits (more sugar, less fibre) and lifestyle held before being diagnosed with gestational diabetes mellitus three months after delivery, back to a healthy diet/lifestyle and worries 14 months after delivery but then focusing on their own risk, as mothers, of developing type 2 diabetes and being unable to care for the child. Over time, the number of persons perceiving gestational diabetes mellitus as a transient condition decreased. Respondents lacked information about gestational diabetes mellitus, diet and follow-ups.

Conclusion.  Beliefs changed over time and influenced health-related behaviour. Beliefs about the seriousness of gestational diabetes mellitus among healthcare staff/care organisation influence the development of patients’ beliefs and need to be considered in planning care.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Pregnancy should be used as an opportunity to provide complete information about gestational diabetes mellitus and future health risks. This should continue after delivery and wishes for regular follow-ups should be met.