What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes occurs when a pregnant woman, who has never had diabetes before, has high blood sugar (or glucose) levels during pregnancy. It is the result of the body not being able to make and use all of the insulin that it needs for the pregnancy. Without that insulin, the sugar can’t leave the blood to become energy. It builds up in the body and produces high blood sugar levels.
How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?
If your physician suspects that you have gestational diabetes, based on routine blood testing, you will be asked to have a fasting blood sugar test. If that test shows that you have higher than normal blood sugar levels, then you have gestational diabetes.
How is gestational diabetes treated?
Gestational diabetes can hurt you and your baby so treatment is important. Treatment for gestational diabetes involves keeping blood sugar levels at a normal level for pregnant women and that includes special meal plans and physical activity. It might also include daily blood sugar testing and insulin injections.
How can gestational diabetes affect my baby?
Gestational diabetes, if untreated or poorly managed, can hurt your baby. Gestational diabetes causes the pancreas to produce insulin, but the insulin does not lower the mother’s blood sugar levels. That extra blood sugar crosses the placenta and gives your baby high blood sugar levels. That, in turn, causes your baby’s pancreas to produce extra insulin to get rid of the blood sugar. Your baby is getting more energy than it needs for development and that energy is stored as fat.
Macrosomia is the term given to “fat” babies from gestational diabetes and they may have the following problems:
- Because of their size, babies with macrosomia may damage their shoulders during birth.
- They may be born with low blood sugar levels
- They may have breathing problems
- Babies with excess insulin may be candidates for childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes as adults
What happens to the mother after pregnancy?
Gestational diabetes usually goes away after pregnancy, but it is likely to return during future pregnancies. Gestational diabetes in women can often lead to type 2 diabetes in later years and that will also require daily management.
Gestational diabetes is a cause for concern but, with prompt, consistent treatment, you can maintain a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.