Most women with gestational diabetes do not experience any symptoms.
The exact cause of gestational diabetes is unknown.
To understand how gestational diabetes occurs, it is important to understand how pregnancy affects the metabolism of glucose. Insulin, a hormone that is secreted by the pancreas, helps to regulate the amount of glucose in the blood after a meal. It achieves this by transporting glucose from the blood to the body's cells. In doing so, it also helps to deliver glucose which is required as a source of energy to the cells.
During pregnancy, the placenta, which connects the baby to the mother's blood supply, produces high levels of different types of hormones. These hormones pass into the mother's blood stream and impair the action of insulin on the cells of the mother's body. This leads to increased levels of sugar in blood. The more the baby grows, the more hormones the placenta produces. Increased blood levels can impair the growth and health of the baby. This condition usually develops in the last half of pregnancy, although it can occur as early as the 20th week.
4 Making a Diagnosis
Some doctors believe that all pregnant women should be screened for gestational diabetes for early diagnosis and appropriate treatment to be given. Women who are at a risk of developing gestational diabetes should have the blood sugar level carefully monitored regularly.
Tests that can be used in routine screening for gestational diabetes include:
Initial glucose challenge test - in which a women is asked to drink a syrupy sugar solution and the blood sugar is measured an hour later. A blood sugar level below 130 to 140 mg/dL (7.2 to 7.8 mmol/L) is considered as a normal glucose challenge test. If it is higher, it indicates that a woman has an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes.
Follow-up glucose tolerance test - in which a pregnant women is asked to fast overnight and the blood sugar level is measured on the next day. Before the blood sugar level is measured, the woman would be asked to drink a sweet solution and then the blood sugar level is measured every three hours. If at least two of the results indicate high blood sugar, then a woman will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
Frequent tests are required through out pregnancy to monitor the blood sugar level. After delivery, the blood sugar level should also be monitored to ensure the woman doesn't have type 2 diabetes.
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