In this article we will look at:
- What is gestational diabetes?
- How is gestational diabetes caused?
- Who is prone to gestational diabetes?
- What are the symptoms of gestational diabetes?
- How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?
- What are the complications of gestational diabetes?
- What is the treatment for gestational diabetes?
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What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that starts between weeks 24 to 28 of pregnancy in some women, and usually goes away after the baby is born. Like Diabetes Type 1 and Type 2, gestational diabetes causes high levels of sugar in the blood. This occurs due to hormonal and physical changes in the body during pregnancy, causing the cells in the body to use insulin less efficiently, subsequently leading to a buildup of glucose in the blood.
Often times, women suffering from gestational diabetes experience no noticeable symptoms or very mild symptoms of this disease.
If your blood sugar level is 130 mg/dL or more during pregnancy, and you experience symptoms such as increased thirst, excessive urination and fatigue, it would be advisable to consult your family physician, or an obstetrician, or a perinatologist.
How is gestational diabetes caused?
During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes hormonal changes. One of the changes that occur is that the placenta produces hormones which inhibit the action of insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps the cells of the body to absorb sugar (glucose) and transform it into energy. During pregnancy, when the hormones produced by the placenta interfere with the functions of insulin, the sugar in the mother’s bloodstream increases, as it is not able to get into the cells. This excessive sugar is taken in by foetus which is still developing.
If too much of the insulin-blocking hormone is released by the placenta, the mother’s blood sugar rises leading to gestational diabetes.
Some women suffer from prediabetes, a condition when the blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be termed as fully developed diabetes. In such cases, the condition can aggravate leading to gestational diabetes. Similarly, many women suffer from undiagnosed diabetes, which is later diagnosed during pregnancy, as it becomes more pronounced then.
Who is prone to gestational diabetes?
You are at a risk of developing gestational diabetes if:
- you are older than 25 years
you are overweight
you have prediabetes
- diabetes runs in your family
- you’ve suffered from gestational diabetes before
- you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
What are the symptoms of gestational diabetes? How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?
The symptoms of gestational diabetes include:
- excessive thirst
increased frequency of urination
sudden weight loss
nausea and vomiting not related to pregnancy
prone to infections (urinary, skin etc)
The doctor will advise you to frequently undertake urine tests to keep a check on the sugar levels in your urine.
Sugar Screening Test
After the 24th week of pregnancy, the doctor will advise you to undergo a sugar screening test. In this test, you will be given a sugary liquid to drink. After an hour, some blood will be drawn from you.
If your blood levels are found to be high, you will be suggested to undergo a 3-hour glucose tolerance test.
3-Hour Glucose Tolerance Test
You will be asked not to eat or drink anything 8-14 hours before the 3-Hour Glucose Tolerance Test.
Some blood will be drawn from you for before the test.
During the test, you will be given a liquid containing 100 gms of glucose to drink. After an hour of drinking the liquid again, some blood will be drawn from you. This process will be repeated three times.
This test can accurately diagnose if you have gestational diabetes.
What are the complications of gestational diabetes?
With gestational diabetes, you are at an increased risk of :
Gestational diabetes may also put your baby at risk in the following ways:
- Preterm Birth: the high blood sugar may raise the chances of an early labour. Alternatively, the doctor may suggest an early delivery through C-section as the babies born of a mother with gestational diabetes are usually oversized.
- Respiratory Distress Syndrome: the babies born may suffer from breathing difficulty, also known as respiratory distress syndrome. They may need support to be able to breathe till their lungs become stronger and mature.
- Low Blood Sugar In Babies: the babies may suffer from low blood sugar, as their own insulin production may be affected. Frequent feedings and intravenous glucose solutions can raise the baby’s blood sugar levels to normal.
What is the treatment for gestational diabetes?
As part of the medical treatment, the doctor will let you know if you need to take any medicines or insulin for gestational diabetes.
Regular, moderate exercising, during pregnancy, will largely reduce any pregnancy-related complications, including the risks of gestational diabetes. Swimming and brisk walking are good exercises for women suffering from gestational diabetes.
Before deciding on a regular exercise regimen, however, it is advisable to consult with your obstetrician, to understand which kind of exercises suit your condition the most, along with the duration of exercising.
Did you know?
Diabetes capital of the world
India is the diabetes capital of the world and has among the highest rates of women suffering from gestational diabetes. Around 5 million women get affected each year.
Gestational diabetes can be precursor to diabetes type 2
Many of the women who suffer from gestational diabetes later go on to suffer from Type 2 diabetes.
Consequences of gestational diabetes
Majority of the women who suffer from gestational diabetes also experience complications such as high blood pressure, large birth weight babies and obstructed labour.
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