What is Gestational Diabetes?

Should I Be Worried?

Once concern facing expectant mothers is whether or not they will develop gestational diabetes. This condition affects how well the cells in your body use glucose (sugar) that is responsible for giving your body energy. When the energy isn’t effectively used, there is an increase in blood sugar levels and causing dangerous symptoms for you and your unborn child.

What Are the Associated Risks with Gestational Diabetes?

Increased levels of hormones are thought to be partially responsible for a woman’s risk of developing gestational diabetes. A family history of diabetes in general, being over the age of 25 years, being overweight and underactive also increase the potential that women will develop this condition. When your body’s cells become inefficient at how they are reacting to the insulin, several consequences can occur.

Often gestational diabetes occurs without noticeable symptoms for the mother other than possibly increased urination or excessive thirst. This does not mean, however, that there aren’t dangerous effects occurring for the mother and baby. As the mother’s blood sugars increase, there is elevated strain on her pancreas. She can also begin having high blood pressure which can cause other complications.

For the developing baby, gestational diabetes can put the baby are risk for being born at a heavier weight than is healthy and safe. This means there is an increased risk that the shoulders can be damaged during delivery, or that the mother will need to have a caesarian delivery. These newborns are also then at increased risks for developing obesity later in life.

Babies whose mothers develop gestational diabetes are also at risk for premature labor and delivery, which often results in respiratory distress syndrome. Immediately after birth these babies can also have what is called hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, which results from the drastic drop in sugars delivered to the baby via the umbilical cord. Some babies require special feedings to regulate this problem. Gestational diabetes can also cause jaundice in babies after birth which causes strain on their liver functions.

How Can I Get Tested For Gestational Diabetes?

Most healthcare providers have as part of their standard care procedures gestational diabetes testing for pregnant mothers beginning around week 18 to 20 of the pregnancy. This is when the disease first usually appears, and then can develop or continue throughout the duration.

Typical screening for the disease involves a glucose challenge test where the mother drinks a sweetened solution and then has her blood sugar levels tested. If they show abnormally high levels, the mother then makes an appointment for a more conclusive type of testing that involves more frequent monitoring of the blood sugar levels. If these tests are positive for indicators of gestational diabetes, doctors will often perform a non-stress test that includes an ultrasound to verify the health of the baby and measure the amount of amniotic fluid present.

Mothers will often also be instructed to perform fetal kick count measurements to watch for signs of decreased activity by their babies. It is also important to maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and talk with your doctor about regular blood sugar monitoring.

[Featured Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

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