During pregnancy, some people may develop high blood sugar levels. This condition is known as gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). Pregnancy makes the body need more insulin to control the levels of sugar (glucose) in the body. Gestational diabetes occurs when the body cannot produce the insulin it needs during pregnancy. It typically develops between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy.
DIABETES IN PREGNANCY
What to look for?
It’s rare for gestational diabetes to cause symptoms. If you do experience symptoms, they’ll likely be mild. Diabetes symptoms may include:
- blurred vision
- excessive thirst
- excessive need to urinate
- yeast infections
Who is at risk of gestational diabetes?
You may have a higher risk if you:
- have high blood pressure
- have a family history of diabetes
- were overweight (BMI > 30) before you became pregnant
- are not physically active
- gain a larger than typical amount of weight during pregnancy
- are expecting multiple babies
- have previously given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
- have had gestational diabetes in the past
- have had an unexplained miscarriage or stillbirth
- have been taking steroids, like glucocorticoids
- have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), acanthosis nigricans, or another condition associated with insulin resistance
- become pregnant at an older age > 35yrs
- do smoking
How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?
The glucose tolerance test (GTT) can be used to test for GDM.
- Woman who have had GDM in a previous pregnancy should be offered early self-monitoring of blood sugar (glucose) or a two-hour 75 g GTT as soon as possible after the first antenatal appointment. This is followed by a repeat GTT at 24-28 weeks of pregnancy if the first test is normal.
- Women with other risk factors should have a GTT at 24-28 weeks
If diabetes in pregnancy is not managed well or left untreated, blood sugar levels may remain higher than they should be throughout your pregnancy. This can lead to complications that affect the health of you and your baby before, during, and after birth.
Complications that can affect you may include:
- high blood pressure
- increased risk of miscarriage
- premature birth
- cesarean delivery
Complications that can affect your baby can include:
- high birth weight (macrosomia)
- congenital abnormalities
- breathing problems
- low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- higher risk of developing diabetes later in life
- birth injury
- dying soon after birth
What is the outlook?
Your blood sugar should return to normal levels after you give birth. But developing gestational diabetes raises your risk of type 2 diabetes later in life. A doctor will test you for diabetes 6 to 12 weeks after your baby is born, and again every 1 to 3 years.
Taking steps to prevent type 2 diabetes can also help prevent associated complications
It’s not possible to prevent gestational diabetes entirely. However, changing your lifestyle can help reduce your risk of developing it.
If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant and have one of the risk factors for diabetes, aim to eat a balanced diet, get regular exercise and consult your health care provider for better management.