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Gestational Diabetes: Diabetes when pregnant

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes which develops, or is diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy.

This type of diabetes usually begins around the second trimester of pregnancy, that is during 24 – 28 weeks of pregnancy. As long as Gestational diabetes is diagnosed early and is well controlled, it can be easily managed and will not be harmful to the woman or her child.

Gestational diabetes is also known as Glucose intolerance during pregnancy. Generally gestational diabetes is a temporary disorder which disappears after the woman gives birth to the child.

Causes of Gestational Diabetes during pregnancy

During pregnancy, the increased levels of certain hormones may interfere with the ability of the body in managing blood sugar. This condition is termed as insulin resistance. Generally, the pancreas produces adequate insulin to compensate for the insulin resistance but in case the increased insulin production is unable to overcome the effects produced by the increased pregnancy hormones then, it leads to increase in the blood sugar levels giving rise to gestational diabetes.

Risk factors for Diabetes during pregnancy

Any female can develop gestational diabetes, but there is a greater risk in the following cases

  • Age more than 25 years.
  • Body mass index 30 or more.
  • Past history of gestational diabetes.
  • Family history of diabetes.
  • High blood sugar levels.
  • Black, Hispanic, American Indian or Asian origin.

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes during pregnancy

Generally gestational diabetes does not produce any symptoms. In case symptoms are present they may be –

  • Elevated urination.
  • Elevated thirst.
  • Increased huger.
  • Fatigue.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Frequent infections.
  • Weight loss.

Diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes

Screening of every pregnant woman with the presence of even one of the risk factors should be conducted.

Routine screening – Routine screening should be done during the antenatal appointments. It is done by performing the Glucose Tolerance test (GTT). This test is performed in the morning, on empty stomach. The patient is made to consume a glucose drink and another blood sample is taken two hours later, to judge how the body is dealing with the glucose.

This test is generally done during the 24 – 28 week of pregnancy but if the patient had gestational diabetes in the previous pregnancy then this test shall be carried out during 16 – 18 weeks of pregnancy, or even sooner. If, the first test is normal then, a repeat GTT shall be carried out at 28 weeks.

Treatment of Gestational Diabetes

Aim of treatment should be to keep blood sugar levels within control during pregnancy. Below mentioned are a few steps which should be followed in the treatment of Gestational diabetes…

1: Regular monitoring and control of blood sugar.
2: Consultation with a dietician for help in making adequate healthy food options.
3: Diabetic medications or insulin, if required may be prescribed.

Prevention of Gestational Diabetes

The below mentioned steps can help you decrease your risk of gestational diabetes –

1: Perform regular exercise.
2: Consume a healthy and a well balanced diet. Increase intake of vegetables and fruits. Reduce fat intake and avoid sugary foods.
3: Maintain a normal weight and body mass index.
4: Avoid certain medications that accelerate insulin resistance.

Risks to the Unborn Child…

If the mother has gestational diabetes then there are some potentially health risks to the baby. Gestational diabetes affects the mother during the later stage of pregnancy that is, after the body of the baby has been formed. Hence, gestational diabetes fails to cause any kinds of birth defects as compared to those sometimes seen in babies whose mothers were diabetic prior to the pregnancy. They are…

1. Macrosomia – A condition where the baby grows too large due to surplus amount of insulin crossing the placenta. There are chances that a large baby makes vaginal delivery difficult and may accelerate the risk of injury to the baby during the process of birth.

2. Hypoglycemia – A condition where the blood sugar levels fall. High insulin levels after birth gives rise to hypoglycemia. To lower the risks of hypoglycaemia in your baby, you shall need to control your blood sugar levels.

3. Jaundice – Jaundice is a condition which is characterised by yellowish discolouration of the skin and eyes and is at times attributed to gestational diabetes.

4. Preterm birth.

5. Respiratory Distress Syndrome – Baby may have temporary breathing problems.

6. There may be low calcium and magnesium levels in the blood of the baby.

7. Later in life, may have high risk of obesity and diabetes.

Next Article: Neonatal Diabetes

Previous Article: Pre Diabetes

Internal Links

[1] Am I Pregnant?

[2] Third Trimester. What to expect

[3] How to deal with Morning sickness

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