Gestational Diabetes develops during pregnancy due to the body’s need to produce extra insulin for the baby. If the body can’t produce enough insulin or develops too much insulin resistance, there will be too much sugar in the blood with may cause gestational diabetes.
What are the symptoms?
Gestational diabetes often doesn’t have any symptoms but there is a screening process during the second trimester that will quickly determine whether or not you have it.The glucose tolerance test is offered between 24 and 28 weeks and involves drinking a sugary drink, waiting an hour and having a blood test. Depending on your caregiver you may be offered extra screening if you are considered a high risk.
Am I at risk?
You may be considered in a high-risk group for developing diabetes in pregnancy if:
- You are overweight [ie, your body mass index BMI is above 30]
- You have had previous pregnancy complications
- You have a family history of diabetes
- You are over 35 years old
What are the effects?
Numerous studies have shown that those who suffer from GD may give birth to very large babies that could have difficulty passing through the birthing canal. You may be more likely to have your labour induced and sometimes a caesarean section is needed. One of the more usual effects of GD to babies includes hypoglycemia, which is abnormally low blood sugar in the body. The other more common effects are jaundice (yellow tint in the eyes and the skin primarily hitting the liver and intestines), hypocalcemia (abnormal levels of calcium in the blood affecting the heart) and polycythemia (abnormal increase in red blood cells).
Interestingly, studies have also linked GD with increased chances of obesity during childhood through adulthood.
How is it treated?
Generally, if you have been diagnosed with GD, the condition may be managed by changing your diet and taking regular exercise. Your midwife or obstetrician will advise you on how best to control your blood sugar level by helping you manage your diet and eating patterns.
You will probably need to monitor your blood sugar levels and may have to do a finger prick test on yourself up to four times a day. Your doctor will show you how to do this.
There is a small percentage of cases of gestational diabetes that can’t be controlled by diet and exercise. In this case, you’ll either need to take medication or inject insulin. If this happens to you, you’ll be taught how to do this.
Will I still have diabetes after my baby is born?
Gestational diabetes usually resolves itself once the baby is born. Women who have had it in one pregnancy are more likely to get it again in future pregnancies and they are also at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.