Diabetes During Pregnancy - What is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that some women get during pregnancy, usually around the 24th week. Between 5-7% of expectant mothers develop this condition, making it one of the most common health problems of pregnancy.

In pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones that help the baby grow and develop. These hormones can block insulin from doing its job, this is called insulin resistance. For most moms-to-be, this isn't a problem: When the body needs additional insulin, the pancreas dutifully secretes more of it. But if the pancreas can't keep up with the increased insulin demand during pregnancy, blood glucose levels rise too high, resulting in gestational diabetes. After the baby is born, the mother’s blood glucose levels usually return to normal.

Symptoms
Gestational diabetes generally has no symptoms, or the symptoms are mild. it is most commonly diagnosed by screening during pregnancy.
Symptoms include:
  • unusual thirst
  • excessive urination
  • tiredness
  • thrush (yeast infections)
Women at risk are
  • over 30 years of age
  • have a family history of diabetes
  • overweight African-American, Native American, Asian, Hispanic or Pacific Islander
  • have had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy.
  • take corticosteroid medications
  • have previously had a baby whose birth weight was greater than 4.5 kg

Babies born to mothers with untreated gestational diabetes are typically at increased risk of problems such as being large for gestational age (which may lead to delivery complications), low blood sugar levels soon after birth, prolonged jaundice, low levels of calcium, and respiratory distress syndrome.

Treatment
  • First-line therapy includes nutritional and exercise interventions for all women, and caloric restrictions for obese women.
  • 15% of patients with gestational diabetes require insulin

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