High blood sugar levels that occur during pregnancy are also known as gestational diabetes. Even if you have never had diabetes, you can be diagnosed with this condition in the late stages of your pregnancy.
Any pregnancy comes with many hormonal changes, and those changes are considered the cause of gestational diabetes. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that enables glucose to be used effectively, so if the insulin activity is disturbed, it can lead to high blood sugar levels.
How to identify and diagnose gestational diabetes
Most pregnant women experience insulin resistance during late stages, but some of them will eventually develop gestational diabetes and even type 2 diabetes after the pregnancy.
The risk also increases if you fall under any of the following groups:
- being overweight,
- having polycystic ovaries,
- having a relative with type 2 diabetes,
- having had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- being of American Indian, Hispanic, Asian American or African American ethnicity.
Symptoms and signs
There are no symptoms or signs to indicate gestational diabetes, so regular screening tests are very important for proper diagnosis.
Blood tests are used to determine this condition, and most of them are done during the 28th week of pregnancy. Earlier tests are also possible, especially for women who have risk factors. There are several ways in which the doctor can test your glucose level; most tests involve drinking a sugar-based beverage and having your blood tested one hour later.
Additional testing will be required if the test result is not normal. Other tests involve having a sugar-based drink and checking your baseline blood glucose level after 1, 2 or 3 hours. If your doctor decides to monitor your long-term glucose levels, he can perform a hemoglobin A1c test and see what has been going on over the past 2-3 months.
Consequences for mother and baby
Even if you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you can still deliver a healthy baby as long as you receive proper care. However, complications may occur because of this condition, including a complicated delivery because of the baby’s increased size or having a baby with hypoglycemia.
If gestational diabetes is not treated and monitored as it should, the baby can suffer from respiratory conditions or even die soon after birth. The newborn can also develop type 2 diabetes as an adult. Moreover, most women with this condition will deliver their babies through Cesarean birth.
Treatment and prevention
Following a treatment is essential if you want to prevent complications for you and your baby. Proper exercise and a balanced diet should be enough to control your glucose levels and bring them back to normal.
The doctor may also ask you to check your blood glucose levels at home after eating different foods. Urine tests can also be part of the treatment plan to see if ketones are present. For women who can’t manage their glucose levels through diet and exercise, insulin intake is often required. Moreover, the doctor will have to adjust your insulin doses as the pregnancy advances.
In some cases, gestational diabetes cannot be prevented, but there are some things you can do to decrease the chances of developing this condition. Maintaining a healthy weight and adopting a balanced diet during your pregnancy are also essential to prevent this type of diabetes.
Most women who follow a treatment plan, exercise regularly and eat healthy are very likely to deliver healthy babies, as long as glucose levels are properly managed.
Moreover, following your doctor’s instructions can also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes after the pregnancy.