What is Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes (or gestational diabetes mellitus, GDM) is a type of diabetes that affects women during pregnancy. The word “gestational” means the time when the baby grows in the womb.

Diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose (sugar) in the blood. Normally, the amount of glucose in the blood is controlled by a hormone called insulin.

However, during pregnancy, some women develop higher than normal levels of glucose in their blood, because of less insulin which can’t bring glucose under control.

Gestational diabetes usually develops in the third trimester (after 28 weeks) and usually disappears after the baby is born but in some cases women suffer from the very beginning of the pregnancy.

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Image Credit Flickr By Alagich Katya

Cause of Gestational Diabetes

When you eat, your body breaks down carbohydrates from foods into a sugar called glucose. This sugar goes into your bloodstream then, it travels to your cells to give energy to your body.

An organ called the pancreas makes a hormone called insulin, which helps move sugar into your cells and lower the amount in your blood.

During pregnancy, the placenta – the organ that feeds and delivers oxygen to your baby – releases hormones that help in the growth of your baby.

To keep your blood sugar levels steady, your pancreas has to make more insulin –around 3 times more than usual. If it can’t make enough extra insulin, your blood sugar will rise and you’ll get gestational diabetes.

Are You At Risk of Gestational Diabetes?

Any woman can develop gestational diabetes, but some women are at greater risk. Risk factors for gestational diabetes include:

*Excess weight– You are more likely to develop gestational diabetes if before pregnancy you are overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. The chances become higher if you gain weight too much at a high speed during pregnancy. By adopting healthy lifestyle and proper work out you can get ideal weight before pregnancy and this will help you to lower the chances of gestational diabetes.

*Age greater than 25– Women older than age 25 are more likely to develop gestational diabetes. Women those are having their first pregnancy late have high risk of gestational diabetes.

*Family or personal health history– Your risk of developing gestational diabetes increases if you have slightly elevated blood sugar— or if a close family member, such as a parent or sibling, are having diabetes.

*Previous Pregnancy – You are also more likely to develop gestational diabetes if you had it during one or more previous pregnancies. If you delivered a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds (4.1 kilograms) then also there are chances that you had high sugar in that pregnancy.

*Nonwhite race– For reasons that are not clear, women who are black, Hispanic, American Indian or Asian are more likely to develop gestational diabetes.

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes typically does not cause any noticeable signs or symptoms. This is why screening tests are so important.

Rarely, an increase in thirst or increased urination may be noticed. Fatigue, blurred vision, weight loss despite an increased appetite, nausea, and vomiting are also seen.

How Gestational Diabetes diagnosed?

Gestational diabetes is diagnosed with blood tests. Most pregnant women are tested between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy, but if you have any of the above risk factor, your doctor may decide to test earlier in the pregnancy.

If you are having trouble controlling your blood sugar by changing the lifestyle, you may need to take insulin.

Oral glucose challenge test (OGTT or GTT) and Glycated hemoglobin, or hemoglobin- A1c are some tests that are performed to check the glucose level.

Effect of Gestational Diabetes on baby

Gestational Diabetes – Action Steps for Prevention

“Prevention is better than cure” sothe more- healthy habits you can adopt before pregnancy, the better. Let’s check:

Maintain healthy body weight– Discuss with your doctor what a healthy weight is for you during your pregnancy.

Blood sugar tested– Have your blood sugar tested as early as three months before you get pregnant to see if it is in a normal range.

Nutritional counseling-Seek the advice of nutritionist and Commit to a healthy food plan that will help keep your blood sugar on target and supply you and your baby with sufficient nutrition.

Lose weight -losing extra weight before pregnancy may help you have a healthier pregnancy and less risk of Gestational diabetes.

Exercise– Exercising before and during pregnancy can help protect you from developing gestational diabetes.

Every step you take increases your chances of staying healthy.