Gestational Diabetes Sugar Check

July 16, 2008

Gestational Diabetes is Diabetes

The fact that between two and seven percent of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes makes the complication one of the most common in pregnancy.  Gestational diabetes acts like Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes does in non-pregnant women - the pancreas can't keep up with the demand for insulin to break down and move glucose through the blood stream so the sugar produced in the body stays in the blood instead of moving into the cells where it converts to energy.  The high production of hormones during pregnancy can affect the ability of the pancreas to keep up with the production of sugar.  The result is gestational diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes Testing

Some of the very common signs of pregnancy are the same signs often found in gestational diabetes, such as being tired, thirsty, or hungry and having to urinate more often. In effect, that means there are no real symptoms, so blood sugar levels must be evaluated through glucose screening and tolerance testing.  This testing is usually done between 24 and 28 weeks gestation on all pregnant women.  Women who are considered high risk for diabetes, such as those who are obese, have a family history of diabetes or have had gestational diabetes previously, are usually tested at the beginning of their pregnancy.  If the testing is positive, then careful follow-up is important to ensure a safe and healthy delivery.  Additional reasons for testing in women who are not considered high risk include sugar in the urine, previous delivery of a large baby, stillbirth or birth defect in the baby as well as high blood pressure.  Many women who develop gestational diabetes have no risk factor, which is why screening in the last trimester is important.

Effects Diabetes on Baby

Many women with gestational diabetes give birth to normal, healthy babies.  When monitored closely, keeping blood sugar levels under control with proper diet and exercise, and having insulin injections if necessary, the risk is minimized.  However, the consequences of uncontrolled diabetes are very serious for both mother and baby.  If too much glucose from the mother enters the baby's blood, his pancreas is required to produce more insulin to deal with the extra sugar.  The excess of blood sugar and insulin may cause the baby to make fat and ultimately put on weight, especially in the upper body.  Macrosomia, the technical name for this, is a situation where the baby is too big to enter the birth canal, or his head engages but the rest of his body is unable to make it through the canal.  A vaginal delivery can sometimes result in nerve damage, broken bones or even stillbirth.  The risks can be reason to have a caesarean section.

Proper Care with Gestational Diabetes is Important

Proper prenatal care, screening and monitoring all ensure the risks of gestational diabetes are minimized.  By catching and treating the disease as soon as possible, a woman can have a normal, healthy baby and though the diabetes may return in future pregnancies, the knowledge that it is manageable is a great comfort.

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