Every mother-to-be, especially above 35 years of age, is screened for diabetes before and during her pregnancy. Though it can occur at any stage of pregnancy, gestational diabetes is more common in the later half of pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. The blood glucose levels of the mother remain higher than normal. These elevated levels of blood glucose are harmful for the mother as well as the baby.
Gestational diabetes is typically diagnosed between 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. It is a temporary condition in which the hormone insulin which carries out metabolism of carbohydrates is not produced in adequate quantities to regulate sugar levels during pregnancy. This is also known as glucose intolerance.
Gestational diabetes occurs when the body cannot produce the extra insulin required during pregnancy. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas. It regulates the glucose levels in the body. During pregnancy, the body produces additional hormones and undergoes various changes like weight gain. Due to these inevitable changes, the body may not be able to utilize insulin properly leading to a condition known as insulin resistance.
All pregnant women present with some insulin resistance during the later part of pregnancy. Those women who cannot produce enough insulin develop gestational diabetes. Obesity is linked to gestational diabetes. Overweight women may already have some insulin resistance before pregnancy. A strong family history of diabetes can also cause gestational diabetes as genes play a strong role.
Signs and symptoms of gestational diabetes may include:
High blood glucose levels during pregnancy can be harmful for the baby and can lead to problems such as:
Pregnant women with gestational diabetes are more likely to develop preeclampsia, high blood pressure with increased levels of proteins in urine during the second half of pregnancy. It also increases the chances of needing a C-section as the baby’s head might be large. Pregnant women with gestational diabetes have a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life along with its complications such as diabetic retinopathy, heart and kidney disease, and nerve damage.
Gestational diabetes can be prevented in pregnant women by controlling blood sugar levels. Blood sugar levels can be controlled well with a proper diet and exercise. Some women might need medications to control blood glucose levels if diet and exercise are not enough.
Talk to your doctor if you have been experiencing any of the above symptoms.
Disclaimer: The information in the article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor.
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