Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy. The illness can occur as early as twenty weeks into the pregnancy, but is most often found in the last half of the second trimester or later. While any complication during a pregnancy is worrisome for expectant mothers, gestational diabetes is one of the easier complications to recognize and treat.
What Is It?
Gestational diabetes is exhibited by elevated blood sugar levels in expectant mothers. The high blood sugar levels are generally safe for the mother, but could cause a number of developmental problems for the unborn baby.
What Causes Gestational Diabetes?
Scientists have not been able to pinpoint an exact cause for gestational diabetes. What is known is that during pregnancy, the placenta surrounding your baby produces a large number of hormones, and nearly all of them inhibit insulin’s effectiveness in bodily tissues. After a mother eats, her blood sugar level rises, making the blood sugar level of her baby increase as well. However, because of the insulin inhibiting hormones in the placenta, the blood sugar of the baby elevates to levels that can impair growth and development.
Most women who develop gestational diabetes have healthy babies; however, if left unmanaged there are risks to both the mother and her unborn baby. Gestational diabetes puts unborn babies at a higher risk of excessive growth, hypoglycemia, jaundice, respiratory distress syndrome, developmental issues, and a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes later in life. While there are a number of potential complications, diagnosed and managed cases are often absent of problems.
The risk to mothers is less severe but just as important to be aware. Mothers suffering from gestational diabetes are at an increased risk for preeclampsia, UTI’s, and the future onset of diabetes.
What Can You Do?
The lack of a known cause makes it impossible to eliminate your risk of developing gestational diabetes, but there are things you can do to minimize your risk. Leading a healthy lifestyle prior to becoming pregnant is the best preventative measure you can take to avoid gestational diabetes and a number of other pregnancy related complications.
Unfortunately, even the healthiest of women develop gestational diabetes from time to time. Screening for gestational diabetes is a standard part of prenatal care and check-ups, making detection a near certainty. Once you have been diagnosed, your doctor may use a number of different methods to treat you. Some of the likely ways you will monitor and treat your diabetes include things such as, blood sugar monitoring, a healthy diet, exercise, and possibly insulin injections. Nearly 15 percent of women with gestational diabetes require insulin injections.
The outlook for women and their babies suffering from gestational diabetes is remarkably positive. With proper prenatal care, gestational diabetes is easy to detect, and able to be effectively managed. When detected and treated early, gestational diabetes is unlikely to cause developmental problems or put mother and unborn child at risk, however, in untreated cases it could lead to stillbirths or the severe underdevelopment of the baby.