Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that affects pregnant women who have never had diabetes before. According to the American Diabetes Association, gestational diabetes affects about 4% of pregnant women, with approximately 135,000 cases each year in the United States. 
Gestational diabetes does not cause birth defects, but uncontrolled gestational diabetes can have a negative impact on the baby. The extra glucose in the bloodstream travels through the placenta, which the child stores as fat. The child's pancreas produces extra insulin to deal with the elevated blood glucose level. Babies with elevated insulin levels may be at risk for hypoglycemia upon birth.
Risk factors[edit | edit source]
Although any woman can develop gestational diabetes, certain risk factors contribute to higher risk of developing this type of diabetes. Four major risk factors include:
- Age: Women of 25 or older are more prone to develop gestational diabetes.
- Weight: Being overweight before pregnancy may lead to gestational diabetes.
- Past history: Family history - one or more parents or sibling having type 2 diabetes - is a risk factor for developing gestational diabetes.
- Race: Women of certain races are more prone to develop gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes causes[edit | edit source]
Almost all women have some degree of impaired glucose intolerance during pregnancy due to hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. That means that their blood glucose is higher than normal, but not high enough to have diabetes. During the later part of pregnancy, these hormonal changes place a pregnant woman at risk for gestational diabetes.
Complications[edit | edit source]
Although most of the women with gestational diabetes give birth to healthy babies, yet untreated or uncontrolled blood sugar levels arising due to this condition may result into complications for the baby as well as the mother.
- Complications affecting the baby
A baby with a mother having gestational diabetes may develop certain complications including the follwoing:
- Excess growth of baby before birth
- Developing low blood sugar
- Breathing difficulty by the baby
- Possibility of developing type 2 diabetes in later life
- Complications affecting the baby
- Risk of developing preeclampsia. It is a condition, after the 20th week of pregnancy, the mother develops high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine. This is a serious and life-threatening complication (both for the mother and the baby) if not urgently treated after the 20th week of pregnancy.
- Risk of developing a repeat gestational diabetes during the second pregnancy if mother had it during the first pregnancy.
Prevention[edit | edit source]
Gestational diabetes can't be prevented if a woman is prone to develop it. However, adopting healthy habits and lifestyle before and during pregnancy, are helpful. Some of the healthy habits and lifestyle changes involve eating healthy and nutritious foods, increasing physical activities if one lives a sedentary life, and keeping an eye on the weight.
Treatment[edit | edit source]
Gestational diabetes is treated with a combination of a specialized meal plan, scheduled exercise, and insulin injections.
The condition usually goes away after pregnancy, although women who have experienced gestational diabetes are at an increased risk for experiencing it again in later pregnancies. Women who experience gestation diabetes are at a greatly increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
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References[edit | edit source]
- "Gestational Diabetes", American Diabetes Association.