Gestational Diabetes: Risks, Symptoms and Treatment

Gestational diabetes is a high blood sugar level that starts during pregnancy. All pregnant women should be screened for diabetes. An oral glucose tolerance test is done between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy.Usually this condition disappears after delivery but your chances increase in developing gestational diabetes during your future pregnancies.

What happens in your body?

Usually when you eat sugar, it enters your digestive system and your blood stream, where with the help of insulin, your cells use the sugar as fuel. During pregnancy and with the hormonal changes your cells become less responsive to insulin and your pancreas cannot keep up with the demand of insulin, the sugar level increases resulting in gestational diabetes.

Who is at risk of developing gestational diabetes?

-          Women above 35 years old

-          Family history of diabetes

-          Women carrying big babies above 4kg (macrosomia)

-          Obesity

-          Former gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies

-          High blood pressure

-          History of stillbirth

-          Having too much of amniotic fluid (Polyhydramnios)

How the oral glucose test is made?

The oral glucose test is made to depict gestational diabetes. Do not eat or drink anything for 8 hours before the test. You cannot eat during the test. It follows the below steps:

-          A blood sample will be collected when you arrive to the lab in the morning and still fasting. It provides a baseline for comparing other glucose values.

-          The medical staff will ask you to drink a sweet liquid containing a measured amount of glucose. It contains usually 75g of glucose.

-          Blood samples will be taken at an interval of 1, 2, and 3 hours after you drink the glucose.

Normal blood values for a 100-gram oral glucose tolerance test used to screen for gestational diabetes (medlineplus.com):

  • Fasting: less than 95 mg/dL
  • 1 hour: less than 180 mg/dL
  • 2 hour: less than 155 mg/dL
  • 3 hour: less than 140 mg/dL

Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

Higher levels of glucose may mean you have gestational diabetes.

What are the symptoms of gestational diabetes?

Usually there are no symptoms. Gestational diabetes disappears after delivery and the blood sugar level returns to normal. Symptoms may comprise:

-          Increased thirst

-          Fatigue

-          Frequent urination

-          Blurred vision

-          Weight loss

-          Nausea and vomiting

What to do if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes?

Many women who develop gestational diabetes have a healthy child. The most important is to monitor your sugar level and exercise. Sometimes medications are needed.

You should have a balanced diet of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. It is very important that you do not skip any meal and stay away of candies, cookies and sugary juices. Eat healthy, drink lots of water and keep watching your weight. Exercise to improve the process of sugar absorption in your body. Ask your doctor about the type of activity and the timing. Always keep in your bag some bars of chocolates or candy in case you experience hypoglycemia after exercising. Medication is to be taken if prescribed by your doctor as insulin.

Untreated gestational diabetes may affect your baby and your health. High sugar in your blood will pass to your baby’s body thus his pancreas will produce more insulin to process the sugar causing a weight gain leading to macrosomia. A big baby would not be able to pass the birth canal necessitating a cesarean section. At birth, your baby blood sugar level will be tested immediately. It is more likely that he might experience hypoglycemia at birth due to the excess production of insulin. It is better to breastfeed your baby directly after birth.

How can I prevent gestational diabetes?

Researchers did not find what causes gestational diabetes in pregnant women. Some states that placental hormone blocks the insulin action in the mother’s body. This condition is called insulin resistant. You should always visit your doctor on time, have prenatal tests and watch your weight and diet.