Diabetes detected during pregnancy is known as gestational diabetes. Like any other diabetes, gestational diabetes causes blood sugar levels to become too high. When you eat, your digestive system breaks down the food into glucose. Glucose enters your bloodstream so your cells can use it as fuel. With the help of insulin, a hormone made by your pancreas, muscle, fat, and other cells absorb glucose from your blood. But if your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or if the cells have a problem responding to it, too much glucose remains in your blood instead of moving into cells and getting converted to energy. When you’re pregnant, your body becomes more resistant to insulin so that more glucose is available to nourish your baby. When your body needs additional insulin to process excess glucose in blood, the pancreas secretes more. But if the pancreas can’t produce enough insulin with the increased demand during pregnancy, blood sugar levels rise too high because the cells aren’t using the glucose. This results in gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes needs to be recognized and treated quickly because it can cause health problems for both the mother and baby. It is not a permanent condition. Once the baby is born, blood sugar will most likely return to normal quickly. However, having gestational diabetes makes one very prone to diabetes in the future.
Insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance is normal to some extent in late pregnancy.
However, in some women, this causes gestational diabetes. There are several risk factors that can increase your risk of getting gestational diabetes. They are:
2. Gestational diabetes in previous pregnancy
3. Previous delivery of an infant with a high birth weight
4. A parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes
5. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Most women don’t show any symptoms. Most often the doctor will ask you to get a screening test done in the 24-28 weeks into pregnancy. If one is at a higher risk at having gestational diabetes, the doctor will suggest to take the test earlier than that. Most women find out about having gestational diabetes after taking the test.
The most common test for gestational diabetes is the oral glucose screening test. This test measures how efficiently your body produces insulin. On the day of the test, you will be given a sweet liquid to drink. An hour later, you’ll have a blood test to check your glucose levels. If thetest shows that your blood sugar is too high, you’ll have to take another test called the oral glucose tolerance test. For this test, you’ll need to fast before being given a sweet liquid to drink. Your blood will be tested at fasting, then again after one, two, and three hours following that. If the result of two tests shows your blood sugar is too high, you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Both of the tests are safe for the mother and the child and has no major risks.
Gestational diabetes can be controlled by exercising daily and eating a balanced, healthy diet based on whole grains, lean proteins, vegetables, and other foods that release sugar slowly. However, many of them with gestational diabetes need to take medication to balance their blood sugar levels (anti-hyperglycemic medication). Insulin injections are the most common medical treatment for gestational diabetes. Keeping a check on your blood sugar level by yourself is a very important step. Your doctor will show you how to test yourself with the device, which is used most often. This involves pricking your finger with a small needle first thing in the morning and then again an hour or two after you’ve eaten a meal.
Proper treatment for gestational diabetes is crucial because the occurrence of pregnancy problems and complications is decreased when blood glucose levels are normalized.
Risks for the baby and the mother
Women with gestational diabetes who get their treatment done right, deliver healthy babies. However, if there is continuous elevated blood glucose levels throughout pregnancy, the fetus will also have elevated blood glucose levels. High blood glucose can cause the fetus to be larger than normal, possibly making delivery more complicated. The baby is also at risk for having low blood glucose (hypoglycemia) immediately after birth. Another serious complication of poorly-controlled gestational diabetes is the risk of jaundice and respiratory distress syndrome in the newborn. Also, there is a higher chance of the death of the newborn before or following birth. The baby is also at a greater risk of becoming overweight and developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
If diabetes is present in an early pregnancy, there is an increased risk of birth defects and miscarriage compared to that of mothers without diabetes. Women with gestational diabetes have a greater chance of needing a Cesarean birth (C-section), in part due to large infant size. Gestational diabetes may increase the risk of preeclampsia, a condition where there is high blood pressure and protein content in the urine. Women with gestational diabetes are also at increased risk of having type 2 diabetes after the pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes cannot always be prevented. However, obesity is the main cause of this disease. Maintaining a healthy weight and following a nutritional diet both before and during pregnancy can decrease your chances of developing gestational diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight can also decrease your chances of developing type 2 diabetes following pregnancy. The key is to eat healthy and exercise regularly, before and after pregnancy. This helps in staying away from gestational pregnancy as well as diabetes in normal conditions.