To commemorate world diabetes day next week, I thought it will be useful to talk about gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs in pregnancy usually after 20 weeks. Women with gestational diabetes don’t have diabetes or pre-diabetes before their pregnancy, and after giving birth it usually goes away.
Gestational diabetes is usually diagnosed through a blood test at 24–28 weeks into pregnancy and should ideally form part of the antenatal care and follow up at this stage of pregnancy.
Women who have had gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies should ideally be tested earlier as it is more likely to happen again. Adequate and timely management of gestational diabetes is associated with less adverse effects.
Symptoms include increased thirst, increased urine frequency, and extreme fatigue but the truth is a lot of women do not notice any symptoms.
The hormones produced during pregnancy can affect the way the body responds to insulin leading to insulin resistance. Some women are not able to produce enough insulin to overcome this resistance thereby leading to gestational diabetes. Inadequate insulin leads to increased levels of glucose in the blood and this is what is detected when a blood test is done.
Uncontrolled gestational diabetes (uncontrolled blood sugar levels) can lead to complications such as
- Requiring a cesarean section.
- Having a larger than normal baby (macrosomia), which could result in a more painful birth and possible stress for the baby.
- Low blood glucose levels in newborn
- Your baby having a higher risk of being overweight or obese and/or developing Type 2 diabetes in later life.
Are you at risk?
Women can significantly reduce their risk of developing gestational diabetes by managing their weight to maintain a healthy BMI and keeping active.
You are at an increased risk if you:
- are overweight or obese
- have had gestational diabetes before
- have had a very large baby in a previous pregnancy (4.5kg or over)
- have a family history of diabetes (parent, brother or sister)What can you do?
To ensure you get the right care during pregnancy please make sure you:
- Understand gestational diabetes and how it is treated; also share this with other mums to be.
- Take active steps to reduce your risk even before you get pregnant
- Request an early test for diabetes if you have previously had gestational diabetes or a big baby
If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, don’t worry it’s not the end of the world. It can be managed with controlling diet and increasing physical activity level. If this doesn’t work then medications such as metformin and insulin could be used.