Gestational diabetes like normal diabetes affects how the cells use sugar and the body’s main fuel, and it could affect the pregnancy and the baby’s health to a great extent. Also, having gestational diabetes could mean that you have a chance of getting type 2 diabetes in the future. While the good news is that proper care could help to get the blood sugar level back to normal after the delivery, the bad news is that it could cause serious complications during pregnancy. Therefore, preventing gestational diabetes is necessary for both mother and baby. Find out all about gestational diabetes from causes to treatments, and how you could prevent it or control it here.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Dr. Nusrat A H, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Banashankari, Bangalore explains that gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that specifically develops during pregnancy. Not all women would become diabetic during gestation but some are at a greater risk of developing gestational diabetes conditions. Gynaecologists explain everything about this condition to pregnant women beforehand to avert the serious consequences. To have a normal delivery and give birth to a healthy baby, gestational diabetes must be prevented. However, the only good thing is that gestational diabetes condition remains during the pregnancy period only and gets resolved after delivery. Though, if not managed properly, it may develop into type-2 diabetes. Doctor also emphasize that gestational diabetes or increased blood sugar levels during pregnancy increase the risk of premature birth specifically if the pregnant woman gets gestational diabetes before completing 24 weeks of pregnancy. Not just that, this also increases the risk of various other chronic health complications including obesity, cardiovascular problems, hypertension or high blood pressure issues, to name but a few.
In most cases, women who are physically inactive during pregnancy, as well as obese women, are highly likely to develop gestational diabetes. Additionally, those who have hypertension or any cardiac condition, had gestational diabetes in past pregnancy can also develop diabetes during pregnancy. In order to keep both mother and baby safe, it is important to treat gestational diabetes on time.
Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes
There are certain warning signs that your body would give you while developing gestational diabetes. If you notice them in the beginning, consult a doctor to control the condition. Here are the symptoms:
- Frequent urination
- Feeling extremely thirst or increased thirst
- Sugar in urine
- Blurred vision
- Skin infections
- Bladder and vaginal infections
Most of the aforesaid symptoms are highly common in pregnancy and so, women ignore these to be pregnancy woes. This makes way for gestational diabetes and it is found out only when you go for your routine pregnancy checkup.
What causes gestational diabetes?
We all know that a lot of hormonal fluctuations occur during pregnancy which makes things difficult for pregnant women. This hormonal change is a prime factor that causes gestational diabetes. Insulin is the hormone produced and released by the pancreas. This hormone is responsible to convert sugar into energy and carry metabolic functions. When there is irregulation of insulin production or function, diabetes is caused. When the hormones in the placenta block insulin hormone, it affects the sugar metabolism. This affects sugar regulation and makes the levels go higher. This increased sugar levels cause diabetes. If the levels increase further, it can cause damage to blood vessels, nerves and other organs in the body.
Who are at risk for gestational diabetes?
It is very important to know the risks to plan everything accordingly. Here is a list of women who are at greater risk of developing gestational diabetes:
Obese/ overweight women: If the pregnant woman is overweight or obese with a BMI of 30+, she can get diabetic during pregnancy. This is because excess weight affects the production of insulin which alters sugar levels. Since women gain weight during pregnancy, obesity or overweight can make things go haywire for them.
Old age: Late pregnancy or late conception is another risk factor that may make things troublesome for pregnant women. Getting pregnant at the age of 35+ years doubles the risk of gestational diabetes.
Family history of diabetes: If someone in your or your partner’s family has diabetes, the risk of gestational diabetes in women becomes higher. Besides, if someone had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, the risk becomes twofold.
Abdominal fat: Tummy fat is a potential risk factor for gestational diabetes. If a woman has unnecessary abdominal fat, she can develop diabetes during the first trimester of her pregnancy.
Bed Rest: If a woman is advised bed rest by the doctor during pregnancy, she is likely to put on weight which makes her at risk of gestational diabetes. This can be controlled through diet and other measures.
Multiple pregnancies: If a woman is expecting multiple babies, she needs to regularly monitor her blood sugar levels to avert gestational pregnancy.
Existing medical condition: There are certain health conditions such as hormonal imbalance, hypertension and PCOS, PCOD, metabolic syndrome, etc. that increase the chances of diabetes during pregnancy.
Pre-pregnancy diabetes: If a woman shows elevated blood sugar levels before conceiving, she can suffer from gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
Risk of gestational diabetes on babies
Gestational diabetes not only affects mother’s health but also baby’s health. Here are some health complications that babies born to diabetic mothers may have to deal with:
Low blood sugar level or hypoglycemia
The problem is sucking milk
Abnormal growth of the baby or macrosomia condition
Pale skin or infant jaundice
Risk of restriction in intrauterine growth
Risk of type-1 diabetes
Respiratory issues in the baby
The problems related to gestational diabetes in babies are generally long-term. The problems that they may get affect their life and sometimes, it remains with them throughout their lives. They may develop lifelong diseases linked to gestational diabetes. This is why treating and preventing gestational diabetes during pregnancy is very important.
How is Gestational Diabetes Treated?
There is no medication or something that can treat gestational diabetes in one go, there is a collective approach for gestational diabetes that can control the situation. The three key elements of gestational diabetes treatment are:
Regular monitoring of blood sugar
Medications(in case of serious gestational diabetes)
If you keep a continuous check at blood sugar levels, it becomes easy to track gestational diabetes. If you see the levels going up, consult your gynaecologist to take the necessary steps for timely prevention. Modify your dietary habits and become physically active. Cut down carbohydrates and sugar from your diet to see drastic effects on your gestational diabetes. Do regular light exercises for a healthy pregnancy.
How to Prevent Gestational Diabetes?
Here are some tips that gynaecologist Dr. Nusrat has suggested to prevent diabetes during pregnancy:
Healthy diet: We understand that cravings hit hard during pregnancy but you should not eat blindly. Be mindful and watchful of what you are eating and if it is healthy. Avoid sugary foods, fats and processed foods to prevent gestational diabetes and other pregnancy problems.
Be active: Maintain your weight during pregnancy by doing light to moderate exercises. If you put on a lot, it would become difficult to lose all the gained weight. Walk for 30 minutes daily or practice prenatal yoga.
Weight management: If you are overweight or obese, consult a nutritionist to build a diet chart that would help in managing your weight throughout the pregnancy period. This would reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.
Monitor your blood sugar: If you want to keep diabetes at bay, check your blood sugar at regular intervals. This is of great help.