What Is Gestational Diabetes And The Complications

Causes, signs, and treatments of gestational diabetes simplified.

By Chelsea Lane
What Is Gestational Diabetes And The Complications

Causes Of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is basically a disease that happens during pregnancy. Typically, this type of diabetes is observed during the second half of the pregnancy. This is why doctors will check on pregnant women between the 24th and 28th weeks to see if their blood sugar is too high. In most cases, doctors will supervise the treatment of lowering a pregnant woman’s blood sugar so that the baby’s health will not be affected.

Fortunately, there are safe procedures to lower one’s blood sugar. This will not only keep the baby safe but healthy as well. Usually, gestational diabetes goes away after the mother gives birth. However, there’s a small likelihood that the mother will develop type 2 diabetes, but it can be avoided with a healthy lifestyle.

What causes gestational diabetes anyway? This occurrence happens because the placenta, an organ that forms during pregnancy to provide nourishment and oxygen and remove wastes, creates hormones, thus leading to a buildup of extra glucose in the blood. Normally, the pancreas would regulate the extra glucose with the use of insulin, but there are cases wherein the pancreas can’t handle the additional glucose, thus increasing the sugar level in the blood.

Not all women can get gestational diabetes. It only affects about 2% to 10% of the pregnancy happening every year. However, there are women who are at risk of developing gestational diabetes. You’re likely to have it if:
 

  • You’re overweight before pregnancy
  • Your age is 25 and above
  • You are American Indian, Asian, Black, or Hispanic
  • You have relatively high blood sugar levels but not necessarily diabetic
  • Your family has a history of diabetes
  • You experienced gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • You have high blood pressure or other medical conditions
  • You have a large baby before (the baby is 9 pounds or more)
  • You have given birth to a stillborn or a baby that have birth defects

Signs and Symptoms

For those with gestational diabetes, these are some of the most common signs and symptoms that one can experience:

  • Bladder, skin, and vaginal infections
  • Blurry vision
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea
  • Recurrent thirst
  • Sugar in urine

If you have all of these, it’s best if you consult your doctor right away, especially when you’re already in your 24th week of pregnancy. However, your doctor will most likely be able to detect this since gestational diabetes is expected on some pregnant women.

Still, you’re encouraged to discuss this with your doctor. It’s important to know as early as possible if you’re likely to get gestational diabetes or not. As much as possible, when you’re planning to have a baby soon, ask your doctor for an evaluation. They can give you tips and even customize your general childbearing plan.

Fortunately, there are a lot of safety tests and procedures to detect and cure gestational diabetes. That’s why you should never miss your checkups, especially on the last 3 months of your pregnancy so that monitoring is easier. If you already have gestational diabetes, your doctor will administer and choose the ideal treatment and tests for you to assure the safety of you and your baby.

Complications to the Baby

For those who have gestational diabetes, there is a high chance that your baby is going to have complications if left untreated. Your baby may be at risk of developing these:

1. Extreme Birth Weight

The added glucose in the body will eventually enter the placenta through the bloodstream. Because of this, the baby’s pancreas will create more insulin. This will cause the baby to grow excessively (9 pounds or more).

Large babies, during birth, are likely to be forced to exit in the birth canal, thus causing birth injuries. In some cases, some doctors will opt to get a C-section to make it easier for them to deliver the baby.

2. Respiratory Distress Syndrome and Preterm Birth

High levels of sugar can also lead to an early birth. There are also instances wherein the doctor will forcefully proceed with the delivery before the actual due date because the baby is too large and must be taken out right away.

This is why babies who are taken out before their due dates develop respiratory distress syndrome because their lungs are not fully developed yet. There are even cases wherein the baby already has respiratory distress syndrome even inside the womb. These babies may require a breathing tube or a machine until their lungs become stronger.

3. Hypoglycemia

There are cases wherein the baby will develop hypoglycemia because of too much insulin in the body. This may lead to seizures if left untreated, so immediate feeding or even an intravenous glucose treatment are needed so that the baby’s blood sugar will return to normal.

4. Type 2 Diabetes

Mothers with gestational diabetes will have a high chance that their babies will develop type 2 diabetes later in life if a healthy lifestyle and food choices are not maintained.

Treatments and Tests

As mentioned above, there are multiple ways to treat gestation diabetes. Here are the procedures you’re likely going to undergo:

Tests

Before anything else, you’ll have to undergo a series of tests to see if you have gestational diabetes. All pregnant women are required to take the screening tests for gestational diabetes. The tests are usually done during the last stages of pregnancy – 24th and 28th weeks.

The screening will usually revolve around blood tests. This is to check if your blood level has gone up or stabilized. That’s why it’s only normal to have frequent blood sugar screening during pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes can be addressed by simply checking your blood sugar. This is a crucial step so that your doctor can give you an ideal treatment plan. The aim of the treatment is to normalize the blood sugar level in the body that’s why you’re required to at least check your blood sugar 4 times a say whether you’re at home or at the hospital.

Aside from blood tests, you’re also asked to take a urine test. Urine samples are a great way to check a person’s ketones. Ketones are the substances produced from metabolized fat. If your ketones are high, this means that your body is not able to use the supplied glucose for energy use.

Testing the blood sugar levels on the body and analyzing urine samples are the main forms of screening for gestational diabetes. On top of this, doctors will also conduct a general check-up to see if you have other symptoms showing. The symptoms mentioned above can easily be detected by your doctor; despite this, you’re encouraged to tell your doctors what you’re feeling so that they can assess the situation immediately.

Treatments

The treatment for gestational diabetes is different from one patient to the next. For those who have severe cases, doctors can provide insulin therapy for the patients. Insulin therapy is an approved and effective treatment for those who have gestational diabetes. Oral medication to normalize blood sugar levels can also be taken by patients.

Depending on the effectivity of the treatment and the results, the doctors may change the doses to fit the patient. However, with insulin shots alone, this can already normalize the blood sugar of the patient in most cases.

How Diet Can Help

A healthy and constricted diet is one of the most effective ways to lower down the blood sugar levels of the patient. A food plan with minimal sugar is the ideal diet for people with gestational diabetes. That’s why doctors will ask you to minimize your sugar intake. The lesser the sugar you consume, the lesser the chance of severing your condition.

Doctors also encourage you to do light to moderate exercise. You need to maintain a consistent routine as this is excellent for glucose control. Together with a strict and balanced diet, exercise will lower your blood sugar levels significantly without taking medication.

Related Article: 10 Tips to Creating a Good and Healthy Pregnancy Diet
10 Tips to Creating a Good and Healthy Pregnancy Diet

Guide and tips to creating your own healthy pregnancy diet

Summary

We can never prevent gestational diabetes from happening. The likelihood of getting it is a combination of lifestyle choices and family history. Luckily, there are treatment plans and medication for this. While there’s a cure for gestational diabetes, it’s also better if we prepare ourselves beforehand to lessen the chances of developing it later in pregnancy.

Luckily, there are a lot of ways to do this. Even if genes and family background plays a role in this, it’s still important that we maintain a strict diet and a healthy lifestyle to counter this disease. There may be a chance for us to have gestational diabetes during pregnancy, but with preparation, we can certainly lessen our chances of getting one.

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