Gestational diabetes is a condition characterized by high blood sugar levels that are first acknowledged during pregnancy. The condition occurs in approximately 4% of all pregnancies. In 95 percent of the cases, the diabetes fades away after childbirth. For about 5% of the women, the diabetes remains after childbirth. Once a woman has had gestational diabetes, she's at risk for developing diabetes -type II later in life.
Symptoms of gestational diabetes
Gestational-diabetes symptoms are generally mild and not life threatening to the woman. But it can pose problems like hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and respiratory-distress syndrome for the infant. Women with gestational diabetes are more predisposed than normal to developing toxaemia, a critical condition for both mother and child.
In most cases, diet and exercise can control gestational diabetes. However, some women may need to take insulin.
Causes of Gestational diabetes
Almost all women have some degree of impaired glucose tolerance as a result of hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. It is the hormonal changes (hormones made by the placenta that resist insulin) in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, along with the growth demands of the fetus, that increase a pregnant woman's insulin needs by about three times the normal amount.
Insulin is the hormone needed to take the sugar from your blood and move it into your cells for energy. If mother's pancreas cannot make this extra amount of insulin, sugar from the foods she eats will stay in the blood stream and cause high blood sugars. This is gestational diabetes.
Complications of Gestational Diabetes
Diabetes can affect the embryonic baby throughout the pregnancy. In early pregnancy, a mother's diabetes can result in birth imperfections and an increased rate of miscarriage.
During the second and third trimester, a mother's diabetes can lead to over-nutrition and excess growth of the baby. Having a large baby increases risks during labor and delivery. For example, large babies often require caesarean deliveries and if delivered vaginally, they are at increased risk for trauma to their shoulder. In addition, when foetal over-nutrition occurs and hyperinsulinemia results, the baby's blood sugar can go down very low after birth, since it won't be accepting the high blood sugar from the mother.
Screening for gestational diabetes :
High risk women should be screened for gestational diabetes as early as possible during their pregnancies. All other women will be screened between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy.
For this, you will take a test called the oral glucose tolerance test. This test involves drinking a sweetened liquid, which contains 50g of sugar. The body absorbs this sugar rapidly, causing blood sugar levels to rise within 30-60 minutes. A blood sample will be taken 1 hour after drinking the solution. The blood test measures how the sugar solution was metabolized (processed by the body). A blood sugar level greater than or equal to 140mg/dL is recognized as abnormal.
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