Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy (gestation). Like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes affects how your cells process sugar (glucose). This condition usually develops in the second trimester and most often returns to normal soon after delivery. Gestational diabetes causes high blood sugar that can affect your pregnancy and your baby’s health. However, women who have had gestational diabetes are at a higher risk of getting Type 2 Diabetes.
It is not known why some women develop gestational diabetes. Women with PCOD , high BMI and family history of diabetes have higher chances of developing gestational diabetes. Pregnancy affects the body’s glucose processing ability. During pregnancy, the placenta – which connects the foetus to your blood supply – produces high levels of various hormones. Almost all of these hormones impair the ability of insulin to move glucose into your cells, raising your blood sugar. Modest increases of blood sugar after meals is normal during pregnancy. As the foetus grows, the placenta produces more and more insulin-blocking hormones. In gestational diabetes, the placental hormones provoke a rise in blood sugar to a level that can affect the growth and welfare of your baby.
Gestational diabetes normally does not exhibit any symptoms except for extreme thirst, hunger or tiredness that may be experienced occasionally. The screening test for diabetes is done in the 16th to 28th week of pregnancy. Your doctor checks your blood glucose level using the fasting blood glucose test. Other tests such as screening glucose challenge test and oral glucose tolerance test may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.
Poorly controlled or uncontrolled gestational diabetes increases the risk of preeclampsia, preterm delivery, large-sized baby, caesarean section, newborn with low blood sugar, breathing difficulties and jaundice.
Pregnancy-induced diabetes can be controlled by certain dietary changes, regular exercise, and frequent blood tests as suggested by your doctor. Treatment options include:
- Blood sugar monitoring – your doctor may require you to measure your blood sugar multiple times a day – before and after meals – and monitor your glucose levels.
- Diet and exercise – a healthy diet in the right portions is one of the best ways to control your blood sugar and prevent excessive weight gain, which can put you at higher risk of complications. Your doctor may refer you to a registered dietitian or a diabetes educator to create a diet plan based on your personal profile including weight, pregnancy weight gain goals, blood sugar level, exercise habits, food preferences and budget.
Your doctor will also recommend exercises suitable for you during your pregnancy. Exercise lowers your blood sugar by stimulating your body to move glucose into your cells, where it’s used for energy. Exercise also increases your cells’ sensitivity to insulin, which means your body will need to produce less insulin to transport sugar.
- Your doctor may prescribe medication to lower blood sugar, if diet and exercise alone do not suffice. Between 10 to 20 percent of women with gestational diabetes need insulin to reach their blood sugar goals.
- Your doctor may want to monitor your baby’s growth and development in the womb with regular ultrasounds and tests.