What Is Gestational Diabetes?

gestational diabetes

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  • Gestational diabetes mellitus refers to the glucose intolerance a mother can suffer during pregnancy, which is usually triggered by the hormone production in the placenta
  • In the U.S. alone, about 9.2 percent of pregnant women suffer from gestational diabetes, exposing them to numerous possible complications

The prevalence of gestational diabetes has been on the rise, with the percentage of pregnant women suffering from this condition doubling in recent years. In the U.S. alone, about 9.2 percent of pregnant women suffered from it in 2014 , exposing them to numerous possible complications, ranging from preeclampsia to miscarriage.1

But what does having gestational diabetes mean for mothers? Gestational diabetes mellitus refers to the glucose intolerance a mother suffers from during pregnancy, which is usually triggered by the hormone production in the placenta.

Because of the changes a woman’s body undergoes during pregnancy, it is unable to produce enough insulin it needs, making it hard for you to regulate your glucose levels. In most cases, this condition is diagnosed in the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy.2

How Can Gestational Diabetes Affect You and Your Child?

Because gestational diabetes does not develop before the child’s formation, it does not pose the same risk for birth defects and deformities as preexisting diabetes does. However, this does not mean that gestational diabetes is any less serious compared to preexisting diabetes.

Gestational diabetes can expose the mother to high blood pressure and preeclampsia, a possibly life-threatening condition. Women who suffer from preeclampsia normally do not suffer from high blood pressure prior to the current episode.

This is normally caused by the constriction of the blood vessels, which causes fluid leakage and a reduction in blood flow. This fluid leakage may then cause edemas in various parts of the body.

Some of the most common symptoms of this condition include swelling in your face, hands, feet and ankles, rapid weight gain and nausea. In some cases of preeclampsia, mothers are forced to deliver earlier because of worsening symptoms.3

For the unborn child, gestational diabetes can cause excessive birth weight. The high glucose levels in the body of the mother can cross the placenta and cause the child’s body to produce more insulin to regulate the glucose.

This promotes fat storage, as the child’s body does not know how to expend the energy. This condition is normally called “macrosomia,” which may cause bone fractures during delivery.

Hypoglycemia is another condition that may affect your child. The abnormally high levels of insulin means that the glucose levels of the baby’s body is easily depleted. In severe cases, hypoglycemia may trigger seizures and other complications.4

Is Gestational Diabetes Temporary?

In most cases, gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that affects women during pregnancy. This condition usually passes after delivery, once the hormone levels start normalizing. However, there have been numerous cases where gestational diabetes has heightened the risk of both the mother and child developing diabetes in later life.

In a 2017 study done in Sri Lanka, mothers who suffered from gestational diabetes had 10 times higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes mellitus in a span of 10 years compared to those who did not suffer from gestational diabetes.5

Diabetes UK has also issued a warning to children born to mothers who suffered from gestational diabetes. These children were observed to be six times more likely to suffer from diabetes at an older age.6

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