Gestational Diabetes

Gestational Diabetes: Symptoms and Causes

Gestational diabetes mellitus:

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus is diagnosed during the pregnancy (gestation)  period. High blood sugar is caused by the Insulin-blocking hormones produced by the placenta. It may get resolved after the baby is delivered.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6 to 9 percent of pregnant women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes mellitus. The onset of gestational diabetes is between 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy. There are also chances for a woman to have gestational diabetes for more than one pregnancy. 

If a pregnant woman is diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it doesn’t mean that she already had diabetes before pregnancy or will have it in the coming future. However, the chances of getting type 2 diabetes in the future increases. 

Gestational diabetes mellitus

Causes of gestational diabetes mellitus:

Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone secreted by the pancreas and it helps the body use sugar for energy. The main cause of gestational diabetes mellitus is when the hormones produced by the placenta blocks the insulin. This prevents the regulation of blood sugar. Leading to a condition called hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which in turn leads to several complications. 

It is still unclear why some women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes while others are not. However, there are various risk factors that increase the risk of getting gestational diabetes.

Risk factors:

Risk factors for gestational diabetes mellitus are:

  • The person is overweight before the pregnancy period
  • Family history: People with family members and relatives who are / were diagnosed with diabetes are more likely to be affected by gestational diabetes. 
  • Ethnicity: People belonging to certain ethnicities are at a greater risk than others. This includes people who are African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, or Native American.
  • Women with higher levels of tummy fat in the first trimester of pregnancy could be more likely to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
  • Pregnant with multiples: Woman pregnant with more than one baby are more likely to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes
  • Other medical conditions: Conditions like metabolic syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome and others associated with development of diabetes can increase the risk of gestational diabetes.
  • Miscarriage
  • Diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome 
  • Gave birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
  • Age: People over age 25 are at a higher risk of getting gestational diabetes.
  • Diagnosed with prediabetes before the pregnancy period
  • High blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Been on bed rest

Symptoms of gestational diabetes:

Gestational diabetes mellitus usually doesn’t have symptoms or signs. Although, there are some symptoms of gestational diabetes that are noticed usually, these include:

  • Extreme hunger
  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue

Symptoms of gestational diabetes

Complications of gestational diabetes:

The complications can differ in the case of the mother and the baby.

Complications in the baby:

  • Excess growth: The high blood glucose can trigger the pancreas to create more insulin. This leads to too much growth of the baby, requiring c- section birth.
  • Diabetes in the future: Babies of diabetes patients are more likely to have type 2 diabetes in their later stages of life.
  • Risk of death: Untreated gestational diabetes mellitus can cause death to the child before or right after the birth. 
  • Low levels of blood sugar
  • Breathing problems
  • Early or preterm birth: Mothers affected with gestational diabetes give birth earlier than the due date. 
  • Obesity: Babies of diabetes patients are more likely to be affected by obesity in the future

Complications in the mother:

  • Preeclampsia: This complication causes high blood pressure, high levels of protein in the urine and swelling in the legs. It can be serious and life threatening. 
  • If a person is diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy, it is very likely that they get diagnosed again with gestational diabetes during the next pregnancy. 
  • Surgical delivery/c-section birth

Gestational diabetes prevention:

There is no guarantee for completely preventing gestational diabetes mellitus. However, there are few steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes. These are:

  • Maintaining a balanced diet: Having a balanced diet with high fiber content and low calories and fat content. 
  • Staying active: Doing physical activity reduces the risk of diabetes mellitus significantly. Especially doing exercise before or during pregnancy.
    Gestational diabetes prevention
  • Weight management: It is important to manage weight as being overweight increases the risk significantly. 
  • Taking insulin whenever needed or prescribed by a doctor.
  • Monitoring blood sugar frequently: It is necessary to know the blood sugar levels to keep in track and to know if there are signs of diabetes. 

Diet to prevent gestational diabetes:

A balanced diet is vital to prevent gestational diabetes mellitus. More attention should be given to carbohydrates, protein and fats. It is also vital to eat regularly, especially once every two hours. 

  • Carbohydrates: Healthy diet should consist of whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, legumes, starchy vegetables, low sugar fruits and brown rice. 
  • Proteins: It is necessary to eat two to three servings of protein each day. Lean meats, poultry, fish and tofu are good sources of protein. 
  • It is recommended to have three small meals along with two or three snacks every day. 
  • It is vital to avoid sugary foods like cookies, candy, and ice creams.
  • One should limit the total fat to less than 40% of the daily calories and saturated fat should be less than 10% of the total fat consumed. 
  • A balanced diet must also consist of 20-35 grams of fiber per day. Consuming variety of foods will also help to get vitamins and minerals

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