Gestational diabetes is, as the name suggests, a disease that relates to high blood sugar, only that it starts in women during their pregnancy. This condition is also known as gestational diabetes mellitus or GDM. It normally affects women when they are in their 24th week of pregnancy.
This condition can be effectively treated and thus special care should be taken to ward off its ill-effects by controlling it.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
The placenta of a pregnant woman lends support to the baby. Although the hormones discharged from the placenta helps the baby to develop, it also restricts the mother’s insulin receptors to function properly. This problem is normally known as the insulin resistance. It makes it very difficult for a pregnant woman to use her insulin.
When a pregnant woman’s body is unable to produce and use the insulin, the glucose level in the blood increases giving rise to gestational diabetes.
This condition occurs in a woman while she is pregnant and is not found before conceiving.
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Reasons why only certain women developing gestational diabetes
There are specific causes that leave certain women with higher risks of developing this ailment.
- Age : If a woman is older than 25 when she is pregnant, she runs higher chances of developing this condition.
- Hereditary : Having family history of diabetes.
- Weight of the previous baby : A mother who has previously given birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds or had a birth defect.
- Blood pressure : Having high blood pressure.
- Amniotic fluid : This fluid is also known as liquor amnii. It is the protective liquid that is contained in the amniotic sac of a pregnant woman. Higher quantity of this fluid is a reason.
- Miscarriage/ Stillbirth : Any unexplained miscarriage or stillbirth that may have happened previously.
- Being overweight before becoming pregnant.
Treatment for gestational diabetes
The goal of treating gestational diabetes in pregnant women is to control the blood sugar levels within the normal limits thus making sure that the baby is not harmed.
A healthy diet and simple exercises go a long way in keeping oneself healthy. Generally speaking, the treatment of gestational diabetes should include:
- Daily tests : Blood sugar levels should be checked for at least four times a day. Urine should be checked for ketones, the presence of which signals at poorly controlled gestational diabetes.
- Diet : Lean protein and healthy fats should be consumed in moderate amounts. Intake of food items such as fresh fruits and vegetables provide the body with necessary carbohydrates. Bread, pasta, cereals and rice provide complex carbohydrates. The intake of carbohydrates is essential but should be limited. Mostly its intake is planned as lower than normal.
- Low intake of sugar : Fruit juices, soft drinks and desserts and pastries are rich in sugar and thus should be avoided at all costs.
- Exercise : Regular exercises allow the body to use up the excess of glucose that otherwise is not being emitted out as energy by insulin. This in turn helps to contest insulin resistance. However, as this ailment occurs during pregnancy only, the patients need to check with their doctors regarding the type of exercise program.
- Weight gain : Gaining weight during pregnancy is inevitable; however, it should be within an acceptable range especially for gestational diabetes patients. A certified dietician should plan proper meals and the weight gain should be closely monitored.
- Medication : If these measures do not help in treating gestational diabetes one may go for medicines. The only medication that is specifically prescribed for this ailment is insulin. Doctors mostly prescribe insulin injections to pregnant women to keep the blood sugar levels under control.
- Intake of food : It should also be noted that meals should not be skipped by pregnant women suffering from this ailment especially if one is on insulin. One may be at a higher risk of lowering her blood sugar level that may cause weakness and dizziness.
- Regular check-ups : Also throughout the pregnancy the mother and her baby should be monitored regularly. Fetal monitoring keeps a check on the health and size of the fetus. Sticking to a medication strictly directed towards treating gestational diabetes is essential to avoid poor health of the baby in the future.
Consequences of not treating gestational diabetes
High glucose levels in the blood affect the growing baby in the utero. This leads to birth defects or might also increase the chances of miscarriages or stillbirths.
The baby may suffer from poor health conditions and obesity right from his or her childhood.
Sometimes babies that are born to mothers with untreated gestational diabetes are prone to developing a large size which is not normal for the age. This leads to complications during delivery leading to a C-section. The baby too is at increased risk during labour and childbirth.
Also immediately after birth, the blood sugar levels may severely drop in the baby. If not managed immediately, it may prove fatal.
The baby may also suffer from jaundice just after birth.