Gestational diabetes poses serious risks to the baby as well as the mother. The Indian government mandates diabetes screening for all mothers. Read to know about what gestational diabetes is, its causes, risk factors, treatment and more.
What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a condition in which a pregnant mother who did not have diabetes previously, is diagnosed with diabetes. For many of these women, diabetes will resolve after the delivery; however, there is a high risk of developing diabetes later in life.
What are the causes of gestational diabetes?
Normally, pregnant women experience some level of insulin resistance due to the hormones released during pregnancy. However, among some women who already have insulin resistance, this gets further amplified, resulting in diabetes during pregnancy.
What are the risk factors for gestational diabetes?
- Physical inactivity
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- An immediate family member having a positive history of type 2 diabetes
- History of having delivered a baby weighing more than 4 kilograms
- History of gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy
- Age – The prevalence of high blood glucose (hyperglycaemia) in pregnancy increases rapidly with age and is highest in women over the age of 45 years
What are the symptoms of gestational diabetes?
Often gestational diabetes presents without any symptoms, and the only noticeable symptoms include increased thirst and excess urination.
How do I prevent gestational diabetes?
- Eat a healthy diet which is low in sugar
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle
- Begin your pregnancy at a healthy weight
- Maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy
How will gestational diabetes affect my pregnancy?
Complications to the baby –
- High birth weight
- Premature birth of the baby
- Miscarriage and stillbirth
- Increased probability of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes later on in life
- Respiratory distress
- Decreased blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia)
Complications to the mother –
- High blood pressure during pregnancy (preeclampsia)
- Difficulties in natural delivery, leading to an increased risk of caesarean deliveries
- Risk of developing diabetes in the future – Approximately half the women with a history of GDM go on to develop type 2 diabetes within five to ten years after delivery
What are the tests for gestational diabetes?
The test for gestational diabetes is usually done after 24 weeks of pregnancy. The routine tests done include –
- Glucose challenge test – You will drink 50 gm of glucose mixed with water. Your blood sugar levels will be measured after 1 hour. If your sugar levels are above 190 mg/dL, it indicates that you have gestational diabetes. If your sugar level is below 140 mg/dL, it is considered normal. In case of ambiguous values, your doctor recommends an oral glucose tolerance test
- Oral glucose tolerance test – This is usually performed as a follow-up test. You will be required to do overnight fasting for at least 8 hours. Your blood sugar levels will be analysed while fasting, one, two and three hours after you consume 100 gm of glucose mixed with water
What is the treatment for gestational diabetes?
- Eat a healthy diet which is minimally processed, high in fibre, and consists of foods with a low-glycemic index
- Exercises regularly to maintain a healthy body weight. Ask your doctor to know what kind of exercises are suitable for your stage of pregnancy and follow those strictly
- Regularly monitor your blood sugar levels – Monitoring your sugar levels is very important if you have gestational diabetes
- Medicines and insulin – Some women would require insulin injections to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Insulin injections are safe during pregnancy. Sometimes tablets are also prescribed to lower blood sugar levels