One of the most common medical complications among pregnant women is diabetes during pregnancy. It can be a real scare mostly because diabetes is one of the most feared diseases in the world.
The medical condition is present at an average of 3.3% of all live births. Regardless of what class of diabetes you are suffering, there are ways your doctor can manage it efficiently.
To effectively discuss diabetes during pregnancy it is imperative to define in clear terms diabetes and pregnancy.
Diabetes is a medical condition which results from reduced production of insulin in the body. And it leads to poor control of the amount of sugar in the blood.
In other words, it is an anomaly where the body cannot process the amount of sugar in the blood. Diabetes stems from several causes and management of the disease is mostly dependent on the causes.
Pregnancy is a period where a young one or set of young ones are developed in the womb of a woman. This period is medically referred to as gestation period and in humans, it lasts for between 36 to 40 weeks which are divided into three trimesters.
Now that we have been able to explain diabetes and pregnancy, we can effectively discuss diabetes during pregnancy. You should note at this point that since pregnancy is also referred to as gestation, diabetes during pregnancy can be referred to as “Gestational diabetes.”
What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is the type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. Here’s a simple fact, it only occurs during pregnancy. This is what happens, prior to being pregnant your body manages sugar efficiently but with the pregnancy comes the challenge of properly managing of sugar levels in the blood.
As soon as most women are diagnosed with this condition their panic levels rise to the peak. They become worried, not just about themselves, but about their babies.
If you fall into this category, you should take things easy and worry less because you can still have a very healthy baby. All you need to do is follow your doctor’s instructions which are meant to help you manage your blood glucose levels by doing certain things. Naturally, once you give birth to your baby, gestational diabetes fades away. I guess that’s a huge relief for you.
There are fears that a woman who develops diabetes during pregnancy will end up with type 2 diabetes, it is a possibility but most times it won’t happen.
Causes of Diabetes During Pregnancy
A pregnant woman is diagnosed with gestational diabetes when her body becomes less sensitive to the metabolism of sugar or glucose thus increasing the amount of insulin in the blood.
It generally affects 3% to 20% of pregnant women and resolves as soon as the baby is given birth to. Insulin is the hormone which helps the body to control sugar or glucose levels in the blood. This hormone is produced and released into the bloodstream by the pancreas.
Gestational diabetes occurs when a pregnant woman’s body becomes unresponsive to the insulin in the blood thus leading to an increased amount of sugar in the blood.
Why the body becomes unresponsive to insulin is because of a resistance resulting from hormones released by the placenta.
Sometimes, the placenta is not able to produce enough insulin that will counterbalance the effect of the hormones released by the placenta. The result of this is hyperglycemia, which in turn results in diabetes.
When Does Diabetes During Pregnancy Start?
Gestational diabetes is usually noticed between weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy. Mostly it runs till the baby is born but during this period the mother is advised by medical personnel on what to do, eat, and avoid.
This advice is important to ensure that the baby in the womb does not pick up diabetes from the mother. You might not know this but if gestational diabetes is not properly managed, babies could be born with diabetes.
Diabetic Pregnancy Risks
It is very difficult to determine the reasons why some women fall into gestational diabetes and others don’t. As a matter of fact, scientists have researched a lot into this and are yet to come up with any tangible reason.
What they have been able to discover however is what may put a woman at risk of being diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy.
Let us take a look at a few risk factors that could lead to diabetes during pregnancy:
1. Being overweight. It is very dangerous to go into pregnancy with a BMI of 30 or higher. This is because your body will find it difficult to process insulin.
And thus fail to metabolize the sugar in the bloodstream. This is because being overweight slows down the body’s ability to assimilate insulin being secreted by the pancreas.
2. Having a high level of abdominal fat. Research which was published in the American Diabetes Association journal has shown that a woman with a huge amount of fat in the abdominal region is more at risk of gestational diabetes.
It is advised that you should endeavor to reduce and control the fat in the abdominal area in the first trimester of pregnancy.
3. The older a woman is, the more risk she faces. Research results have revealed that women at age 35 or more are prone to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes than those who are younger.
More on Risk
4. Family history. The place of heredity as a risk gestational diabetes risk factor cannot be overemphasized. Both types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2, have been linked to family history and so is diabetes during pregnancy.
If diabetes runs in your family then you are more at risk of being diabetic during pregnancy than a woman who isn’t. Studies have shown us that women of African-American, Asian, Hispanic, or Native American origin statistically face a high risk of being diabetic during pregnancy.
5. Receiving a pre-diabetes diagnosis. If you have been diagnosed with slightly higher levels of sugar or glucose in your bloodstream before getting pregnant, there is a high chance you will become diabetic during pregnancy.
It is important to watch blood sugar levels, especially before getting pregnant as slightly elevated levels could be very risky to the woman when she finally gets pregnant.
6. Being placed on bed rest. Naturally, when you are placed on bed rest your activity levels drop significantly. A reduction in activity levels will definitely result in an increase in body weight, especially fat around the abdominal areas. All of this put together are major risk factors leading to diabetes during pregnancy.
Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes
This might be a hard pill to swallow because it is expected that with this sort of medical condition there should be vivid symptoms. It has however been observed that women who suffer from gestational diabetes do not exhibit any specific symptoms. What we can tell you is that most of them experience the following:
1. Frequent urination. You would agree with me that pregnant women naturally take a leak far more often than women who aren’t. A major difference between pregnant women suffering from diabetes and those who aren’t is that while the latter have light urination, the former experience it in large amounts.
2. Women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes have been noticed to experience unusual thirst.
3. Pregnant women get fatigued but those who have diabetes tend to be fatigued far more too often. In most cases, it is very different from the fatigue experienced by regular pregnant women.
4. The urine of pregnant women suffering from gestational pregnancy will have traces of sugar. This can be noticed on a routine visit to the doctor. Or by observation when they pee on an open surface other than the water closet.
Diagnosis of Diabetes During Pregnancy
If you’ve been very observant, you will notice that your doctor always asks for a urine sample during antenatal visits. One of the reasons why he does this is to carry out a sugar test.
As explained above, sugar in the urine can be a sign that you have gestational pregnancy. It is better to be safe than sorry. You should also know that one positive result doesn’t necessarily mean that you have diabetes.
In the United States, for example, it is now mandatory that at week 28 of the pregnancy the doctor conducts a diabetes test. To do this the doctor administers a glucose screening test which requires you drinking a sugary liquid.
About an hour later, your blood sample is taken. If high sugar levels are noticed, the doctor is required to carry out further testing. He does this by putting you through a three-hour glucose tolerance test. This will determine whether you have gestational diabetes or not.
Effects of Diabetes During Pregnancy on The Mother and Baby
Here’s some good news for you, that you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes doesn’t mean all hope is lost. If the condition is properly managed and you follow the instructions given by your physician, you will be both safe. Where the problem lies is if the condition is poorly managed.
When it is uncontrolled you are likely to have a condition known as macrosomia. Macrosomia is a condition where the baby in the womb becomes too large. This leads to a very difficult birth process and ultimately a C-Section. Other effects of gestational pregnancy include having stillbirths and preeclampsia.