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> Gestational Diabetes: What You Need To Know

Gestational diabetes, also known as Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM), is a type of diabetes that some women develop only during pregnancy and even then, during the late 2nd or 3rd trimester. This is one of the more common health problems of pregnancy, as between 2 to 10 percent of expectant mothers develop this condition. Diabetes simply refers to an abnormally high amount of sugar in the bloodstream.

What causes GDM?

When we eat, the food travels through our digestive system, and is broken down into glucose, a type of sugar. This glucose enters the bloodstream, and with the help of insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas), glucose is made into fuel for cells. However, when there is not enough insulin being produced, there will be excess glucose that remains in the bloodstream instead of being converted to energy.

During pregnancy, hormonal changes might make your cells less responsive to insulin. Normally, the pancreas would produce more insulin to make up for this, but the problem arises with then pancreas is unable to cope with the additional demand, resulting in GDM.

Most women with GDM don’t remain diabetic after the baby is born. However, once you have GDM, you are at a higher risk of getting it during future pregnancies, and may develop diabetes later on in life.

Symptoms of GDM

Usually, there are no symptoms of gestational diabetes. Pregnant moms are usually advised to get a glucose-screen test during weeks 24 - 28 of pregnancy. A positive result on the glucose-screen test doesn’t necessary mean that you have gestational diabetes. It does mean, however, that you will have to take a subsequent follow-up test (a glucose tolerance test, or GTT) to find out.

High risk factors for developing GDM

Chances of developing GDM are higher if you:

  • are overweight

  • had GDM before

  • have strong family history of diabetes

  • have high blood pressure

  • are over 35 years of age

Even if you don’t have the abovementioned conditions, it’s still advisable to schedule a test for GMD during your pregnancy.

Lowering the chances of GDM

GDM is typically linked to mothers who are overweight, so if you are planning to get pregnant, increase your activity levels and decrease your daily caloric intake to lose the extra weight. Once you’re pregnant, however, weight loss should not be conducted. Instead, you’ll need to gain weight to keep your baby healthy. Take note that the recommended weight gain during pregnancy depends on your pre-pregnancy weight; mothers who are underweight will have to gain more weight than mothers who were overweight prior to pregnancy.

Effects of GDM

Untreated or uncontrolled gestational diabetes can cause problems for your baby, such as

  • being born with a larger than normal body—a condition called macrosomia—which can make delivery difficult and more dangerous for your baby

  • having low blood glucose, also called hypoglycemia, right after birth

  • having breathing problems, a condition called respiratory distress syndrome

  • having a higher chance of dying before or soon after birth

Your baby also might be born with jaundice. Jaundice is more common in newborns of mothers who had diabetes during their pregnancy. With jaundice, the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow. Jaundice usually goes away in a short time, but your baby may need to be placed under special lights to help. Making sure your baby gets plenty of milk from breastfeeding will also help the jaundice go away.

Gestational diabetes may increase your chances of

  • having high blood pressure and too much protein in the urine, a condition called preeclampsia

  • having surgery—called a caesarean section or C-section — to deliver your baby because your baby may be large

  • becoming depressed

  • developing type 2 diabetes and the problems that can come with this disease

As we can see, gestational diabetes not only affects you, but also your child’s health. Chances of getting gestational diabetes can be lowered if the mother controls her diet and exercises regularly. Early detection of gestational diabetes is crucial, so that mothers affected by it will be able to address it fast and keep it under control.


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