Diabetes is a very complex condition, which may occur at any age, in any point of our lives, even during pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes is a disease acquired by pregnant women who have high blood glucose levels during pregnancy. This condition is usually developed around the 24th week of pregnancy, and begins when the body does not use the insulin it needs during pregnancy. Having gestational diabetes doesn’t mean that the person had diabetes before she conceived, and it also doesn't mean she will continue to have diabetes after giving birth.
The extra glucose from the mother can pass through the placenta, giving cause the baby's glucose levels to rise. As a result, the baby’s pancreas will make more insulin to get rid of the extra glucose. At this point, the baby is getting too much energy, or more than it needs. Consequently, the extra energy is stored as fat. Babies born with too much insulin are expected to have Type 2 diabetes when they grow up. It is fairly important to monitor the mother’s blood glucose levels, so as not to harm the baby. Poorly uncontrolled gestational diabetes can harm the baby.
Gestational diabetes occurs in about 4% of pregnancies. Fortunately, gestational diabetes can be controlled.
Causes of Gestational Diabetes
The real cause of gestational diabetes is still unknown. However, studies say that it occurs when the hormones from the placenta block the action of the mother’s insulin inside her body. The body then becomes insulin resistant. When there’s insulin resistance, the mother’s body will have hard time using insulin. Without a sufficient amount of insulin, glucose will build up in the blood to high levels called hyperglycemia.
All pregnant women may develop gestational diabetes but some are at a greater risk. Gestational diabetes is expected to disappear after the baby is born.
Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes
For most pregnant women, they are asymptomatic — no noticeable signs and symptoms. However, hyperglycemia may cause some symptoms, which include:
- Blurred vision
- Frequent urination especially at night
- Dry mouth
- Increased thirst
- Recurrent infections
Gestational diabetes develops during the late stage of pregnancy. However, it is recommended to seek medical attention early on when trying to get pregnant. Going to the doctor as early as possible can help prevent the mother from developing this disease.
Blood tests are usually used to diagnose this type of condition. The tests include screening glucose challenge test, oral glucose tolerance test, and glycated hemoglobin. Tests are performed between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. For women who have a greater risk for developing gestational diabetes, tests are performed during the first doctor’s visit.
When a mother has gestational diabetes, frequent check-ups are necessary to monitor blood glucose levels.
Blood sugar monitoring is the most important part of treatment for gestational diabetes. It will help control the blood sugar level to keep the mother and baby healthy during pregnancy and after giving birth.
Nutritional therapy would be the first line of treatment. With the right diet and regular exercise, weight gain and increased blood sugar levels are prevented. These will effectively manage the condition. If necessary, insulin shots are also given.
Close monitoring of the baby is also necessary. The baby’s growth is regularly observed through tests and ultrasound. Treatment doesn’t stop after delivery. Regular check-ups and blood sugar monitoring is still important to ensure that the blood sugar levels have returned to normal.