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Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes was first recognized in the early 19th century. Medically, it is known as gestational diabetes mellitus. It is one of the most common health problems in pregnant women. Studies have shown that it affects about 5% of pregnant women per year. It occurs usually between the 2nd and 3rd trimester and simply means that your blood sugar level is way too high during pregnancy.

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Causes

During pregnancy the body goes through a lot of changes, and this includes hormonal changes. When pregnant, your placenta makes hormones that prevents the body from using insulin effectively. With the increased need for insulin, gestational diabetes occurs when your body can not make the extra insulin needed during pregnancy.

Risk factors for Gestational Diabetes

  • Being overweight/obese
  • Family history (having immediate family members with diabetes)
  • Having previously delivered a big baby (more than 9lbs)
  • Not being physically active
  • Having had gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies
  • Race or ethnicity (Black, Hispanic, American Indian, and Asian are more prone)
  • Having prediabetes
  • Age (women who are older than 25 years are at a greater risk)
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome (disorder involving infrequent, irregular, or prolonged menstrual periods)

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Symptoms

Gestational diabetes does not usually cause any noticeable signs. However, screening is usually done whether you have symptoms or not between the 24th and 28th week. Here are some symptoms that might occur, and you should look out for: –

  • Increased or frequent urination
  • Increased thirst (drinking more water than usual)
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weight loss even with an increased appetite
  • Blurred vision
  • Yeast infections

How Can Gestational Diabetes Affect The Baby?

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  • Macrosomia: a baby that has an excessive birth weight. Larger babies often get injured by natural delivery and thus must be delivered via caesarean section
  • Hypoglycemia: when the baby’s blood sugar is too low
  • Jaundice: where the baby’s skin may turn yellowish. The sclera may also change color slightly. If treated; jaundice is thus not a serious problem for the baby
  • Respiratory distress syndrome: baby has trouble breathing
  • Low calcium and magnesium levels in the baby’s blood: that’s where the baby would develop a condition that causes spasms in the hands and feet therefore causing twitching and cramping of muscles
  • Still birth: having gestational diabetes can cause still birth
  • Premature birth: the baby can be born early because of gestational diabetes. Sometimes, doctors may feel that it is better for you to be induced or to have a Caesarean section rather than carrying on with the pregnancy

How Can Gestational Diabetes Affect The Mother?

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  • You may have a higher chance of having a Caesarean section
  • Can develop pre-eclampsia; this causes high blood pressure during the pregnancy and many more complications if not treated
  • Can have a miscarriage
  • Preterm birth; doctors may recommend induced labor or to have an early Caesarean section rather than carrying on with the pregnancy
  • Polyhydramnios; too much amniotic fluid in the womb. This can also lead to a premature birth as well as other complications

Prevention

50% of women that have gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes. Here are some ways to decrease its’ risk:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight; you can stay healthy by eating healthier and also by doing adequate physical activity
  • Have blood sugar tested early; get your blood sugar tested as early as possible and regularly in the first trimester therefore monitoring sugar levels.
  • Limit sweets; thus a healthy balanced diet is important
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Treatment

  • Exercise; physical activity can lower your blood sugar level. However, you need to be advised on safe ways to exercise during pregnancy
  • Using medication; if maintaining a healthy diet and exercise does not work, you may therefore have to use medication
  • Maintain a healthy diet; again, based on the recommendations of your physician, a healthy diet can help to control your blood sugar levels
  • Using insulin; Physicians may recommend Insulin
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