Diabetes, a condition in which the body is unable to utilize and convert to energy the carbohydrates taken in through food, is often detected in women during their childbearing years. Diabetes can affect the health and wellbeing of both mother and baby when it goes uncontrolled during pregnancy. The effects can be devastating to the child, from birth defects to stillbirth, as well as causing serious complications for the mother.
What Is Gestational Diabetes?
If a woman did not have pre-existing diabetes and discovers she is diabetic during her pregnancy, it is called gestational diabetes. Frequently, this type of diabetes can be controlled by eating a proper diet and getting regular exercise. Occasionally, a woman with gestational diabetes will take insulin shots as well. As a rule, gestational diabetes disappears after the birth of the baby, but there are times when it doesn't. If the gestational diabetes does not go away after birth, the mother will have to deal with it in the form of Type 2 diabetes for the rest of her life.
What Do I Do If I'm Diagnosed With Gestational Diabetes?
When a woman is diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it is important for her to control her blood sugar and do everything possible to ensure things are managed well when it comes to her health. If she is taking medication, it is very important that it be taken on time and in the correct dosages. Monitoring by the physician is critical as well. If she maintains a healthy diet and exercises regularly, the situation is much easier to control. If not controlled, gestational diabetes can cause the baby to grow to be very large which, in turn, creates problems during labor and delivery.
Inherent Problems For The Pregnancy
Several problems may arise if a woman with gestational diabetes does not control her blood sugar. As mentioned, she may have a very large baby which might cause her to feel very uncomfortable during the last months of pregnancy. High blood pressure (hypertension), early delivery or the need for a Caesarean delivery may add to the complications. Delivery can be very difficult and, if a Caesarean is required, the recovery time from birth is much longer. Hypertension during pregnancy can lead to an early delivery and has the potential of causing seizures or a stroke in the mother.
The Baby Can Suffer Dramatically From Gestational Diabetes
A woman who contracts gestational diabetes is at lower risk for birth defects in her unborn child than are women who have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes when they get pregnant. The reason for this is that gestational diabetes usually appears later in the pregnancy, after the baby's internal organs are already formed. There is, however, a higher risk for stillbirth if the blood sugar is not controlled.
If the mother's blood sugar remains high during the pregnancy, then her baby will likely be very large and the baby's blood sugar will be high as well. The extra large baby can have problems both during and after delivery, including nerve damage caused by pressure, rapidly changing blood sugars, obesity and predisposition to Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Additional problems for the baby include preterm birth, breathing problems, heart problems, bleeding in the brain, intestinal and vision problems. Low birth weight is another situation a baby born to a diabetic mother may experience.