Gestational diabetes is a serious metabolic condition that can occur during pregnancy. In this condition, increasing glucose intolerance caused by the change in hormone levels and stresses of pregnancy can reduce the ability of the pancreas to produce sufficient insulin to metabolize the blood glucose. This imbalance can cause serious risks for both the mother and the child.
Understanding Gestational Diabetes?
During pregnancy, certain types of hormones in the placenta help to shift nutrients to the fetus. Other hormones help to prevent low blood sugar when this occurs. The pancreas produces more insulin to aid in this task. However, if the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels, gestational diabetes will be the result.
Complications of Gestational Diabetes
High blood glucose concentrations can increase the risk for miscarriage and can negatively affect the development of the fetus. Defects of major organs such as the heart and brain can occur. It can contribute to over-nutrition of the fetus that can lead to increased birth weight that is dangerous for the mother. Gestational diabetes can also lead to severe blood sugar drops in the child after birth.
Who Is At Risk?
Medical experts recognize a number of risk factors for developing gestational diabetes. However, this condition can develop even when these factors are not present.
- Women who are overweight, that is, those over 20 percent higher than ideal weight
- Pregnant women who have high levels of sugar in their urine
- Pregnant women whose glucose level tests indicate impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance
- Women with family members who have been diagnosed with diabetes
- Women who belong to groups who are at high risk for diabetes, such as Native Americans, Asians, African-Americans and Hispanic Americans.
- Women who have given birth to a baby over nine pounds
- Women who have had a stillborn baby
- Women who have had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy
- Women who have too much amniotic fluid during their pregnancy
Diagnosis and Treatment
Gestational diabetes generally begins about midpoint in the pregnancy. An oral glucose tolerance test and the 24th and 28th week will generally tell your physician if insulin resistance has become a problem. Treatment includes careful attention to diet. Women are advised to limit their fat and protein and eat more fruits and vegetables and complex carbohydrates. If diet alone is not sufficient to manage blood glucose levels, medication or insulin may be necessary. The physician will also monitor the development of the fetus carefully.
Long-Term Repercussions of Gestational Diabetes
Evidence suggests that women who have had gestational diabetes with their pregnancies may be at risk for developing Type-2 diabetes in later years. This data suggest that women who have had this condition should continue eating a healthy diet, even after pregnancy to keep blood sugar levels in check throughout their lives. Women who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes should have their blood sugar checked during routine annual physical examinations.