Gestational diabetes mellitus is a type of diabetes which causes high blood glucose levels in occurs in previously non-diabetic women during pregnancy.
Nowadays it is routine practice to screen for this condition during pregnancy so your doctor will be able tell you if you suffer from it before it becomes a problem.
What Causes Gestational Diabetes
Doctors are unsure what causes gestational diabetes, but it is widely accepted that you are at a higher risk if there is a family history, or if you are an older mother. There are theories that hormones produced during pregnancy can impair the effectiveness of insulin.
The result is that you are unable to lower blood glucose levels to normal levels.
Gestational Diabetes normally manifests between weeks 20 to 24 of the pregnancy and usually increases in severity as the placenta grows.
The pancreas usually can cope with this by increasing insulin production, but in some cases, it is unable to deal with the increased stress placed on it and gestational diabetes occurs.
Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes
Most women with Gestational Diabetes Mellitus do not have any symptoms, therefore it is important to get checked if you display any of the following warning signs:
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive urination
- Vaginal infections
- Lethargy and Fatigue
With Gestational Diabetes, there are risks posed to both the mother and the baby.
Risks to the mother:
Untreated, diabetes can affect the nervous system, circulation and genitourinary system of the mother.
The mother is also at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes after the pregnancy.
Risks to the baby:
Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes tend to be larger than usual, which can mean a caesarean section may be necessary.
Testing for Gestational Diabetes
During pregnancy, you will have many tests, but the important one to exclude gestational diabetes is the oral glucose tolerance.
It is preformed some time between week 24 and week 28, though it will depend on your doctor and where you live.
The doctors will give you a sugary drink and then measure your blood glucose. The doctors are looking for an inability to lower your blood glucose level to a safe limit over the space of several hours.
Treatment for gestational diabetes usually involves eating healthily and participation in regular exercise. The aim is to reduce the amount of blood sugar by not eating too many sugary foods and exercising in order to use up the extra glucose.
Doctors do not like giving medication to pregnant women, but if these methods are not effective, insulin injections may be necessary.
Mothers with gestational diabetes need to take special care during the pregnancy and should either self-check their blood glucose levels regularly or attend the doctor to have it done.
What happens after the pregnancy?
Once the baby is born, blood glucose levels quickly return to normal in the majority of cases.
However, it is wise to have your blood glucose checked for a few weeks after delivery in order to ensure no residual problems have persisted.