Diabetes during pregnancy, medically referred to as Gestational Diabetes is found to affect 2 to 5 percentage of all pregnant women in the United States. As if dealing with the problems and concerns of pregnancy wasn’t enough, the additional burden of having to control blood sugar levels and managing Diabetes can be devastating and frustrating for the mother. Although Diabetes during pregnancy is a temporary condition that disappears soon after the birth of the baby, it significantly increases the risk of contracting Type 2 Diabetes in the future.
What causes Diabetes during pregnancy?
Many hormonal changes can occur in a woman when she is pregnant. The pregnancy hormones are considered to be responsible for causing Gestational Diabetes. Increased levels of these hormones interfere with the action of Insulin, leading to high levels of blood sugar. The body responds by releasing more Insulin to reduce the blood sugar levels. Usually the Pancreas of pregnant women is able to produce thrice the amount of Insulin than is normally produced. But when the Pancreas fails to produce sufficient Insulin to combat the effects of pregnancy hormones, it leads to Diabetes.
In majority of the cases, the patient does not even know she has Diabetes, because of the lack of noticeable symptoms. However, some women may experience symptoms like
- Increases thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased appetite
- Blurred vision
The following are factors that increase the risk of developing Diabetes during pregnancy:
- Family history of Diabetes
- Age above 25 years
- Being overweight before becoming pregnant
- Occurrence of stillbirths or miscarriage during previous pregnancy
- Having had Diabetes in previous pregnancies
- Polyhydramnios (A condition characterized by having excess amount of amniotic fluid)
- Delivery of overweight baby ( more than 9 pounds) or a baby with birth defects in previous pregnancy
- High blood pressure
- Impaired glucose tolerance
- Presence of sugar in urine
- Being any of the high risk ethnic group of people, such as Native American, Hispanic, Black, or Asian
Diagnosis of Diabetes during pregnancy
All women are usually screened for Diabetes during their second trimester, which is between the 24th week and 28th week of pregnancy. However, high risk women are to be screened during the early stages of pregnancy, probably during their first visit to the doctor.
Diabetes during pregnancy is diagnosed by taking a test known as Oral Glucose Tolerance Test, in which the individual has to drink a liquid containing 50 grams of sugar. A blood test is then taken one hour after drinking this liquid. You are likely to have Diabetes, if your blood sugar level measures 140mg/dL or more. If you are found to be at risk of developing Diabetes, then a follow up test has to be taken after fasting for a few hours. In this test also, a sweetened drink, but containing more sugar is given to the person. Blood tests are taken every hour for 3consecutive hours. If at least in two of the test, the glucose measurements are high, then the person is said to have Diabetes.
Controlling the levels of Glucose in the blood is the primary aim of treatment in this case. The treatments for Diabetes during pregnancy include:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Regular physical activity
- Monitoring blood sugar level
- Use of medications
- Frequent monitoring of the baby inside the womb
Diabetes during pregnancy can cause several complications not only to the mother, but also to the baby. While increased blood sugar levels and high risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes in the future are the complications associated with Gestational Diabetes in the mother, the baby may go through
- Increased weight at birth
- Premature birth
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Respiratory Distress Syndrome
- Increased possibility of Type 2 Diabetes in the future
Tips for managing Diabetes during pregnancy
The following tips will be of great help while managing Gestational Diabetes
- Monitor your blood Glucose levels regularly
- Check your urine for the presence of Ketones
- Eat healthy food
- Exercise regularly
- Take Insulin as directed by your doctor
- Keep track of weight gain
- Control high blood pressure
If you had Diabetes during pregnancy, your chances of contracting Type 2 Diabetes are very high. Therefore make sure to have your blood checked every one to three years. Diabetes during pregnancy can be prevented with lifestyle changes, proper diet and regular physical activity.
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