Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. It usually appears in the second half of the pregnancy. This diabetes can affect the pregnancy or the health of the baby; however, this condition is controllable and treatable with good health care and medications, if necessary.
After delivery, the blood sugar in women usually returns to normal. In some cases, there is a risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
It is of great importance to timely treat gestational diabetes because it can result in a baby's death before or shortly after birth.
Gestational diabetes doesn't cause noticeable symptoms in most women. As prenatal care, the doctor will check the glucose level. The symptoms that may occur due to high blood sugar are:
- Dry mouth
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Yeast infection
- Blurred vision
The cause of gestational diabetes is unknown.
The placenta produces various hormones during pregnancy. These hormones impair the insulin the mother’s cells, thus increasing the blood sugar. As the baby grows, the placenta produces even more hormones that block the insulin, which can affect the growth and health of the baby.
The risk factors for gestational diabetes include:
- Women over 25
- Family or personal health history – if you have prediabetes or if a close family member has type 2 diabetes; or if you had it during a previous pregnancy
- Unexplained stillbirth
- Delivering a baby over 4 kg.
- Being overweight
- Race – it is more common in Hispanic, American Indian or Asian women
Complications can arise both for the mother and the baby if the gestational diabetes is not carefully controlled.
The possible complications for mothers are:
- C-section delivery
- Preeclampsia, which causes high blood pressure and other symptoms that can be serious for the lives of both mother and baby
- Future diabetes – either during the next pregnancy or develop type 2 diabetes with age
The possible complications in babies are:
- Excessive birth weight – babies grow larger if the mother has extra glucose, which enters the placenta, further causing the baby’s pancreas to produce more insulin
- Possible birth injuries due to excessive weight of the baby
- Preterm birth – if the baby is large
- Respiratory distress syndrome – early born babies may have difficulty breathing
- Low blood sugar in new-born babies, which may further cause seizures; the level of sugar returns to normal after feeding
- Type 2 diabetes and obesity, later in life
The prevention of gestational diabetes include healthy habits and lifestyle before pregnancy, although there is no assurance. If you already had gestational diabetes during a prior pregnancy, healthy lifestyle and exercises can help to reduce the risk of developing it again in future pregnancies or developing type 2 diabetes.