A pregnant women that has never had diabetes before but who has high blood sugar (glucose) levels during pregnancy is said to have gestational diabetes.
According to the latest report from the American Diabetes Association, gestational diabetes affects about 4% of all pregnant women - about 135,000 cases of gestational diabetes in the United States each year.
Many important hormones that are present in the body during pregnancy can often block the action of the mother's insulin in her body. Also known as insulin resistance. Insulin resistance makes it hard for the mother's body to use insulin efficiently. Her body may need up to three times as much insulin during pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes starts when your body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy. Without enough insulin, glucose cannot leave the blood and be changed to energy. Glucose builds up in the blood to high levels. This is called hyperglycemia.
Gestational diabetes is most often diagnosed around the 27th week of pregnancy. Due to the increase in cases of gestational diabetes, it has become standard procedure for your doctor to run a glucose tolerance level test. This is a blood test that will check how well your body is dealing with glucose and whether or not blood glucose levels are normal before and after eating.
If blood glucose is found to be above normal it is important to make changes and/or start treatment immediately. Untreated or poorly controlled gestational diabetes is a serious condition for both you and your baby. Blood glucose and other nutrients cross the placenta, giving the baby high blood glucose levels. This causes the baby's pancreas to make extra insulin to get rid of the blood glucose. Since the baby is getting more energy than it needs to grow and develop, the extra energy is stored as fat, which can cause rapid weight gain in babies. Because of the extra insulin made by the baby's pancreas, newborns can have very low blood glucose levels at birth and are also at higher risk for breathing problems. Babies with excess insulin become children who are at higher risk for obesity and adults who are at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes.
Because gestational diabetes can be serious for both you and your baby, you need to start treatment quickly. The goal is to keep blood glucose at normal levels. Treatment for gestational diabetes will always include special meal plans and scheduled physical activity. It may also include daily blood glucose testing and insulin injections. You will need help from your doctor, nurse educator, and other members of your health care team so that your treatment for gestational diabetes can be changed as needed.
Once diagnosed with gestational diabetes it is most likely that it will return in further pregnancies. It is, therefore, important to tell your physician if you have had it in prior pregnancies. It also puts one at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
While gestational diabetes is a serious condition and should be dealt with immediately, the good news is that you and your health care team - your doctor, obstetrician, nurse educator, and dietitian can work together to lower your high blood glucose levels. And with this help, you can turn your concern into a healthy pregnancy for you, and a healthy start for your baby.
NEVER START ANY NEW PROGRAMS WITHOUT CHECKING WITH YOUR HEALTH CARE TEAM.