Gestational Diabetes and its Effect on Pregnancy

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a health problem for pregnant women. The body uses insulin, which is created by the pancreas to convert glucose (sugar) into energy for absorption by cells. During pregnancy, hormones can affect your cells by making them less responsive to insulin; if your body starts to have problems absorbing insulin then glucose cannot be transferred into cells for energy. When the blood glucose levels reach too high, gestational diabetes will occur. Gestational diabetes is found through the glucose screening test and the follow-up glucose tolerance test, which is given to most women during the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy.

Risk Factors Associated with Gestational Diabetes

Any woman can develop gestational diabetes, but the following factors can increase the risk of contracting diabetes during pregnancy:

  • Age is greater than 25 years old.
  • Family and personal health such as strong family history of type 2 diabetes and a pregnancy in which you have had a child weighing more than 9 pounds.
  • Excess weight exceeding a body mass index of 30.

Gestational Diabetes Effects on the Baby

Poorly controlled gestational diabetes during pregnancy can result in long-term problems for the mother and her baby, such as:

  • Macrosomia is a condition in which too much glucose ends up in the baby’s blood, which creates weight gain from the increased insulin production. This causes complications, because the baby may become too large to fit into the birth canal. This may result in fractured bones in the baby, although not usually permanent problems.
  • Hypoglycemia can occur due to a large amount of insulin in the baby’s system causing low blood sugar.
  • Risks of breathing problems are greater at birth if blood glucose levels aren’t controlled.

How to Deal With Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes requires diligent tracking of your blood glucose levels, which can be done with a home glucose meter. Other methods can help control your blood glucose level such as:

  • Regular exercise is important because it improves your body’s ability to process glucose. We suggest that 30 minutes of aerobic activity per day, like swimming or walking, will be beneficial.
  • A well-planned diet helps when eating the proper balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, while maintaining proper vitamin and mineral intake reduces blood glucose levels. Avoidance of sugary treats is also favourable. We suggest that you visit a nutritionist to create a personalised diet.
  • Medication is an option that should only be suggested if the blood glucose level can not be controlled through exercise and diet. Talk to a doctor on whether taking diabetes medication is the right course or not for you.

Gestational Diabetes usually dissipates after childbirth and doesn’t transfer to the baby. Though the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is increased later on in life for those who had Gestational Diabetes.

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