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Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that some women develop during their pregnancy. It is one of the most common pregnancy complications with between 2-7 percent of women developing gestational diabetes. Most women do not remain diabetic after the birth of the baby, but developing gestational diabetes does put you at an increased risk of developing diabetes in subsequent pregnancies and later in life.

Diabetes is a health condition that causes glucose to stay in your bloodstream. It is the result of not enough insulin in your system. The pancreas is responsible for insulin secretion. Most of the time the pancreas keeps up with insulin demand and the sugar levels in the bloodstream remain at normal levels. However, in those with diabetes the pancreas is not able to keep up with the demand for insulin. Insufficient insulin results in increased sugar in the bloodstream.

Most pregnant women with diabetes go on to have healthy babies. Your pregnancy will be considered high risk and you will be monitored very closely during the remainder of your pregnancy for signs of problems with your health or the health of your baby. Your doctor will likely recommend the use of diet and exercise to help control your blood sugar, and in some cases insulin injections will be necessary if diet and exercise are not enough.

If the diabetes is not properly controlled there are serious consequences to the developing fetus. The biggest concern is that if the levels of sugar in your blood stream can’t be controlled your baby’s blood sugar will increase as well causing their pancreas to have to work extra hard while it is still developing. High blood sugar levels in your baby can result in increased production of fat causing your baby to become very large, sometimes too large to delivery vaginally. An attempt to deliver a baby that is too large can result in fractures and nerve damage to the baby. Often your doctor will opt to deliver the baby by c-section if they suspect it is too large. Also, because the baby is used to developing larger than normal levels of insulin they need to be monitored to ensure their blood sugar does not get too low after birth. The doctor will often recommend feeding the baby with formula or sugar water to increase their blood sugar if they are showing signs of having low blood sugar.

How do you know if you have gestational diabetes? Almost all pregnant women will have a glucose screening done between the 24th and 28th week to test for diabetes. You will also want to make sure you tell your doctor if you have any of the common signs of diabetes, such as, excessive thirst, hunger, increased urination, or you are more tired than normal. There are a few things that can put a woman at increased risk of developing gestational diabetes (you will likely be screened earlier if you have any of these risk factors), they include:

  • Obesity
  • A history of gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies
  • A strong family history of diabetes

Remember, talk to your doctor or midwife if you have questions about gestational diabetes, or if you are concerned that you may be developing this condition. It is important to have open communication with your health care provider so that any complications can be identified early.

Visit the American Diabetes Association for more information about diabetes.

Another helpful resourse, Kwik Med Diabetes Facts

(Source Baby Center)

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