Gestational Diabetes Mellitus
Gestational diabetes is a condition where a pregnant female has a high level of blood sugar. It is important that the female had normal blood sugar levels prior to pregnancy to be called gestational diabetes. This condition usually resolves as the baby is born. There are very high chances of a female who has had gestational diabetes to develop type 2 diabetes eventually later on in her life.
Most of the women with gestational diabetes usually do not present with any symptoms. The condition is diagnosed while conducting routine tests. If the blood sugar levels are raised beyond a certain level, a female may experience:
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Increased appetite
- Increased thirst
The main cause of gestational diabetes is the changes in the hormonal level that leads to increased blood sugar during pregnancy. Our body makes enough insulin to cater to that increase in blood glucose levels during pregnancy. However, in certain cases the blood sugar may continue to remain high and hence be diagnosed as gestational diabetes.
A woman is prone to gestational diabetes if she:
- Is overweight in the non-pregnant state
- A diabetic
- Has a positive family history of diabetes
- Has had Gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies
- Has given birth to a large baby in her previous pregnancies
- Has given birth to a baby who had some birth defects
- Has other medical complications
The condition usually surfaces in the second half of the pregnancy between 24 to 28 weeks, however, some females who are at risk of gestational diabetes may be tested sooner. The doctor may advise undergoing a Glucose Challenge Test/ Glucose Screening Test or a Glucose Tolerance Test or both.
- Glucose Challenge Test: The female is given a drink loaded with Glucose in a non-fasting state. Blood sample is drawn and tested for the presence of blood sugar after an hour. A value above 140 mg/ dl might require the female to undergo a Glucose Tolerance Test.
- Glucose Tolerance Test: The patient is asked to take a glucose laden drink in a fasting state. Blood samples are drawn in an hourly frequency for 2 to 3 hours. The results are then interpreted to reach the diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus.
The pregnant female will be required to follow a diet consisting of food low in glycemic index. Keeping blood sugar levels under check is extremely important.
Complications of gestational diabetes for babies are
- Preterm delivery
- Type 2 diabetes later in life
- Big baby
- Respiratory distress syndrome
- Higher chances of a cesarean section
- Risk of preeclampsia
- Gestational diabetes in future pregnancies
- Chances of diabetes later on
Women who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes must get screened for diabetes 12 weeks after birth and keep undergoing screening tests every one or two years.
Some important steps to control gestational diabetes are having a diet that is low in refined or processed sugar. Managing weight is important as obese women are more likely to develop gestational diabetes.
Light exercises during pregnancy is recommended to keep blood sugar level under check. Proper antenatal care is important for the proper development and overall growth of the baby.