Diabetes: The Basics Part Three – Gestational Diabetes

This is Part Three of a series of three Posts. Part One and Part Two covered questions about Type 2 Diabetes. Part Three covers Gestational Diabetes.

What is gestational diabetes?

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Gestational diabetes is high blood glucose (sugar) in a pregnant woman who has never had diabetes before, and it only occurs when a woman is pregnant.

The cause of this condition is not completely understood. It is thought that the hormones that are normally present during pregnancy block the effects of insulin in the mother’s body. This leads to a build up of high blood glucose levels. This condition goes away after the baby is delivered and the pregnancy hormones return to normal levels.

Gestational diabetes that is not treated during the pregnancy can cause certain problems for the baby. One of these problems is a condition called macrosomia, which means the baby is born overweight. Babies with macrosomia can suffer from shoulder damage during birth, and they can have problems with their blood sugar and ability to breathe at birth as well. Protecting the baby from these problems is the main reason why diagnosing and treating gestational diabetes during the pregnancy is so important.

Mothers who have gestational diabetes are at risk for developing high blood pressure during the pregnancy. This leads to a higher likelihood of having to undergo a C-section when the baby is born. In addition, the mother is at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on after the baby is born.

What are the symptoms of gestational diabetes?

These symptoms can include feeling thirsty, feeling hungry, having a dry mouth, urinating often, and being tired. Because these symptoms typically occur with pregnancy anyways, the diagnosis of gestational diabetes is usually made by lab work that is routinely performed during pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes usually develops during the sixth month of pregnancy or later, and this is usually when the mother will be tested for this condition. Mothers who are at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes may be tested sooner than that. Typically, a glucose screening test is performed, which consists of drinking a liquid that contains glucose (sugar), and blood is drawn one hour afterwards to assess the blood glucose level. Depending on the results of the blood glucose level, a glucose tolerance test may be performed.

A glucose tolerance test can consist of several steps. First, the mother will be asked to fast (not eat) the night before the test. Then, blood is drawn the next morning while the mother is still fasting. The mother will then drink the liquid glucose again and have labs drawn one hour, two hours, and three hours afterward. The lab measures the blood glucose levels at each of these intervals. The diagnosis of gestational diabetes is confirmed based on the results of these tests.

How do you prevent gestational diabetes?

The best prevention for gestational diabetes is a healthy lifestyle and a normal weight, normal blood pressure, and normal blood glucose levels before becoming pregnant.

Women who are more likely to develop gestational diabetes while pregnant have high blood pressure, high blood glucose levels (but not high enough to be diabetes), and were overweight before becoming pregnant. Also, women who were diagnosed with gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy are more likely to develop it if they become pregnant again.

How do you treat gestational diabetes?

Lifestyle changes are always recommended to the mother when gestational diabetes is diagnosed, and these include physical activity and dietary changes that are specifically directed by the mother’s physician. The mother’s weight and blood sugar levels will also be closely watched by her physician during the pregnancy as well. The baby’s weight and growth will be carefully watched by ultrasound studies during the pregnancy. In many cases, lifestyle changes are the only treatment needed for gestational diabetes.

If a medication is needed, then insulin is typically used, as it is the safest medication for the baby. Other pill medications can be added to the insulin if the physician feels they are necessary. The medications are usually stopped once the baby is born.

The source of this information is the Virta Health website. Here is the link, please copy and paste it into your address bar


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