Pregnancy gestational diabetes refers to development of persistently high blood sugar levels in a previously non-diabetic woman. Pregnancy is a state of physiologic hormonal and biochemical aberrations and in some cases, these changes may go out of normal ranges and result into different kinds of disease conditions such as induced diabetes referred to as gestational diabetes in pregnancy.
Almost 3-10% of all pregnant women develop pregnancy gestational diabetes. Human digestive system breaks down complex nutrients from our meals to simple suitable forms for absorption as nutrients. Carbohydrates, as sources of energy, are broken down into glucose but the process requires a hormone (insulin) that helps the body to turn blood sugar into energy forms that the body cells can easily absorb – a process that regulates blood glucose.
In diabetes, either the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t utilize insulin appropriately to counteract surging levels of glucose. Blood glucose has to be kept higher in the body of expecting mom to provide ample nourishment and nutrition to the developing baby.
When the insensitivity to the action of insulin becomes excessively increased, blood sugar levels become higher than normal resulting into gestational diabetes. Also, studies have shown that other pregnancy hormones like progesterone and hCG increase blood sugar levels as well, leading to partial insulin deficiency since glucose levels will be more than what your body insulin normally handles before pregnancy. When this happens, it often manifests as gestational diabetes.
However, if you have any of the following risk factors, you’re at elevated risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
As a standard practice, most healthcare providers perform fasting-blood-sugar and glucose tolerance test (GTT) within 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy to diagnose gestational diabetes in pregnancy because it shows no symptoms in most women. However, symptoms such as excess sugar in urine, frequent urination, fatigue and fluid cravings are common, though these are difficult to differentiate from normal pregnancy symptoms.
During gestational diabetes, the baby tend to accumulate excessive glucose and water inside its body through the placenta and high blood sugar levels in your baby triggers some certain hormones that stimulate fetal growth, making your baby become large sized. It’s therefore recommended that such baby be vaginally delivered at pregnancy week 36; otherwise normal vaginal delivery becomes extremely difficult after 38th week with a large sized baby.
Babies born to moms who have uncontrolled gestational diabetes are prone to have neonatal problems with sugar regulation. As well, they are at risk of developing severe jaundice after birth, intestinal and respiratory difficulties. These babies also develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) that may be accompanied with seizures due to high insulin production by their pancreas.
Babies develop hypoglycemia because of excessive insulin secretion from the pancreas of the baby. Such babies had been exposed to persistently high levels of glucose from maternal blood during pregnancy, which in turn induces their functioning pancreas to produce more and more insulin, in an attempt to lower blood sugar levels.
After birth, the pancreas of the baby requires sometime to bring the insulin levels back within normal range. During this time, your baby is at risk of developing abrupt rise and fall in blood sugar levels. However, the risk of complications is extremely rare with proper post-birth care.
Moreover, such children are also put at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiac issues in childhood. As a mom, your job is to provide a healthy lifestyle to your kid in order to prevent these neonatal complications.
If you develop pregnancy gestational diabetes, make sure you keep your weight in check periodically. Moreover, consult your doctor or dietician to formulate a diet plan for you and ensure you stick to any prescribed diabetic diet throughout your pregnancy coupled with exercise.
Maintain a regular pattern and time for some physical activity and monitor your blood sugar levels at home using a glucose strips or glucometer – calibrated device to monitor your sugar levels. Right diet and exercise are usually enough to regulate sugar levels within normal range in pregnancy.
In case your blood sugar levels are not controlled by diet and exercise, consult your healthcare provider for advice regarding insulin medication or injection option. Studies have also proved that an oral drug referred to as glyburide is safe and effective alternative treatment for controlling high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Besides controlling your blood sugar levels, you may need a few other tests and exams to assess and monitor the development of your baby including fetal movements and heartbeat rate in cases of higher risks.
In almost all women who developed pregnancy gestational diabetes, increased blood sugar levels usually return to normal after childbirth. However, caution must be taken since 90% of woman who suffers pregnancy gestational diabetes has a risk of developing diabetes in subsequent pregnancy and later in her life than an average woman. This risk is further increased in obese women, or those who had very high blood sugar levels throughout pregnancy.
If your blood sugar levels are high during pregnancy, the glucose levels of your growing baby will be high as well. When you control your glucose levels within normal range during pregnancy, the risks of possible complications will be greatly reduced for you and your baby.
So, in order to minimize the risks, you must nurture a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy and after childbirth. Keeping your weight under control, maintaining both diabetes and healthy diet
and regular exercise will help you alleviate the effects of pregnancy gestational diabetes and have a successful pregnancy without any complication for your baby.