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Everything You Need to Know About Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a common occurrence in many pregnant women, especially around 24th week. It may not necessarily mean that you’ll have to suffer from diabetes throughout the rest of your life or your baby may be born with diabetes. However, it is important to keep blood glucose levels under control so both you and your baby remain healthy.

What is Gestational Diabetes?

The condition characterized by high blood glucose levels during pregnancy. About 4% pregnant women are diagnosed with this but it is generally not a permanent condition. Most women get gestational diabetes in the later pregnancy stages (during last trimester) and they may have never had diabetes before!

Causes of Gestational Diabetes

Diabetes is known to occur due to hormonal changes occurring in body during pregnancy. Almost all pregnant women have some degree of impaired glucose tolerance which means blood sugar levels are higher than the normal. This puts them at the risk for gestational diabetes. A top gynecologist in Gurgaon explains the condition,

During pregnancy, placenta produces certain hormones which resist the actions of insulin and prevent mothers from developing low blood sugar because of the transfer of nutrients from mother to the developing fetus. Thus, over a period of time, these hormones lead to progressive impaired glucose tolerance. Usually the mother’s pancreas will produce more insulin (almost thrice the normal amounts) to overcome the effects of pregnancy hormones on placenta. However, if this doesn’t happen, then blood sugar levels will rise and result in gestational diabetes.

Risk Factors of Gestational Diabetes

Though insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance to some extent is normal in later pregnancy but there are several factors that can increase the risk of gestational diabetes:

  1. Being overweight
  2. Medical history of gestational diabetes
  3. Previously had a baby with a very birth weight
  4. Family history of type 2 diabetes
  5. Had a polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) at any point of time
  6. Ever diagnosed with pre-diabetes condition
  7. Given birth to a stillborn baby
  8. Too much amniotic fluid – a condition known as polyhydramnios

Can gestational diabetes hurt the baby?

According to a well-known gynecologist from Mumbai,

Gestational diabetes, if left untreated, proves harmful for the baby.

Pancreas produces extra insulin but it does not lower the blood glucose levels. This extra blood glucose passes through the placenta and raises the blood glucose levels of the baby. The extra glucose is stored as “fat” in the baby known as macrosomia producing health concerns because it interferes with the normal growth and development of the baby. Babies born with excess insulin have low blood glucose levels at the time of birth and are also at risk of developing breathing problems, obesity and type-2 diabetes as they grow up.

Gestational Diabetes Diagnosis 

Doctors usually ask pregnant women to be screened for gestational diabetes between 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. Screening involves oral glucose tolerance test which involves drinking a sweet liquid that increases the blood sugar levels within 30-60 minutes. One hour after drinking the liquid, a blood sample is taken from the vein in the arm. This blood test will check how much glucose was metabolized by the blood.

If the blood level goes beyond 140mg/dL, it is considered abnormal and another test is done after fasting for some hours. If that too comes negative, it confirms occurrence of gestational diabetes.

Treatment of Gestational Diabetes

If you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, here are some key strategies to manage it to avoid any harmful repercussion for the baby and you:

  1. Monitoring blood sugar levels before meals and 2 hours after meals per day.
  2. Monitor excretion of ketones in urine
  3. On the advice of your gynaecologist, follow a specific dietary plan as well as physical exercise
  4. Keep your weight gain and blood pressure under check

Right diet and exercise is the best way to manage gestational diabetes. However, doctors may prescribe medicines to treat gestational diabetes in certain women. It is really important to treat gestational diabetes because if not it can increase the risk of birth complications. Most women get gestational diabetes in their last trimester of pregnancy and once the baby is born, it disappears.

Read about 7 Myths of Diabetes

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