Sometimes during pregnancy, women can develop high blood sugar levels, but typically this will disappear after giving birth. Gestational diabetes can occur at any point during pregnancy, however, it most commonly appears in the second half.
Prognosis of gestational diabetes:
Gestational diabetes usually resolves after giving birth, however, during pregnancy it can affect both the mother’s and baby’s health. If it is caught early and managed, the risk of problems occurring is reduced. Additionally, if you have gestational diabetes, your risk of developing type two diabetes in the future increases.
This condition increases the risk of:
- The need for induced labour or caesarean section
- Large baby at childbirth
- Premature birth
- Your baby developing jaundice after birth
- Polyhydramnios (excess of amniotic fluid)
Symptoms of gestational diabetes:
Often there are no symptoms related to gestational diabetes, however, some women may experience the following if their blood sugar levels become too high (hyperglycaemia):
- Dry mouth
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urges to urinate
- Feeling tired
- Blurred vision
Unfortunately, many of these symptoms are also typical of pregnancy itself.
Medical tests to diagnose gestational diabetes:
In your first antenatal appointment (8-12th week of pregnancy), you will be assessed for your risk of developing gestational diabetes (if your BMI is over 30, if your family has diabetes, if you have had it on previous pregnancies, or if you are of Asian, Middle Eastern or African-Caribbean origin). You will also have an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) in the 24-28th week of pregnancy in which your blood is tested in the morning before you have eaten, and again after the consumption of a glucose drink.
What are the causes of gestational diabetes?
Whilst the exact cause of gestational diabetes is still unknown, it is more than likely that hormones are involved. During pregnancy, larger amounts of human placental lactogen (hPL) and hormones that increase insulin resistance are released. Whilst such hormones help to protect your pregnancy, they can lead to insulin resistance, which if it becomes too strong will cause the blood sugar levels to rise.
Can gestational diabetes be prevented?
Whilst there is no guarantee in preventing gestational diabetes, you can decrease your risk by:
- Losing weight before pregnancy if you are overweight or have a BMI of over 30
- Staying active during pregnancy
- Eating healthy food
Treatments for gestational diabetes:
If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you will be told to test your blood sugar levels with a testing kit before and after meals. You will also be given dietary advice on which foods can help regulate blood sugar levels. Some women, however, will require insulin injections as well to control blood sugar. Furthermore, women with this condition will be closely monitored throughout their pregnancy to avoid the risk of complications occurring.