Pregnancy Complications - Gestational Diabetes
All mothers develop resistance to insulin during pregnancy, but in some cases this can result in temporary diabetes, known as gestational diabetes or pregnancy diabetes. The reason this happens is because pregnant women are unable to produce enough extra insulin to counteract their insulin resistance.
Risk Factors for Gestational Diabetes
The risk of becoming diabetic during pregnancy increases in women who
- are smokers
- are over 25 years old
- are overweight
- have a family history of diabetes
- are from a minority ethnic group.
Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes
Gestational Diabetes is normally detected during routine pregnancy blood screening. However, sometimes women suffering from it report frequent urination, fatigue and extreme thirst.
Diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes
Between 26 and 30 weeks of pregnancy women should have their blood sugar levels monitored. A sample of blood will be taken on two separate occasions and glucose levels will be checked. Two tests are available for this, the random glucose test or the fasting glucose test. If your glucose levels are raised another more detailed test will be performed, known as a glucose tolerance test. A glucose tolerance test will also be offered if you are obese, have a family history of diabetes or if you have previously suffered gestational diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes and the Baby
Mothers suffering from gestational diabetes tend to give birth to bigger babies and they may also be at higher risk of birth defects and stillbirth.
Diet and exercise are the usual way of treating gestational diabetes. Therefore, if you are diagnosed with the condition you will see a dietician who will work with you to draw up a diet plan. You will be advised to take up low impact exercise such as walking, yoga and swimming. You will also be encouraged to reduce your fat and salt intake, eat regular meals and increase your intake of fruit and vegetables.
Your blood sugar levels will be monitored regularly to ensure the levels don't get too high, particularly after mealtimes. If they do you may have to receive insulin injections - quick acting insulin for use after meals and slow acting insulin at bedtime.
Delivery of the Baby
If you are suffering from gestational diabetes it is likely your labour will be induced at around 38-39 weeks gestation to avoid the increased risk of stillbirth. It is also likely your baby will be delivered by c-section.
The baby will be checked to ensure he or she has normal blood suger levels at birth, although most babies are perfectly okay.
Since insulin resistance usually ends once the pregnancy is over, insulin treament is no longer necessary and is normally stopped. Sometimes a further glucose tolerance test is performed at your six-week postnatal check-up to ensure no further treatment is necessary.
More Pregnancy Complications
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Placenta previa
- Cholestasis (itching during pregnancy)
- Morning sickness
- Varicose veins
- Stretch marks
- Depression (pre-natal depression)
- Childbed fever (puerperal sepsis)
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