Gestational diabetes develops in women during pregnancy as a result of the mother’s inability to produce enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that enables the body to break down sugar to be used as energy.
It generally disappears soon after birth, but there is a high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
What are the risk factors?
If you are believed to be at risk of developing pregnancy diabetes your doctor may screen you even without any symptoms. The following factors are usually warnings for medical health professionals that you should be monitored:
- You have a family history of either type 1 or type 2 diabetes
- You are 40 or older
- You are overweight
- You have had a miscarriage
- You have given birth to babies weighing more than 9lbs
- You have previously given birth to a baby born with an abnormality
- You have previously had a stillbirth late in pregnancy
What causes it?
The hormones produced during pregnancy work against the action of insulin. Gestational diabetes can happen if the mother’s body can’t produce enough extra insulin to counteract this blocking effect.
How do I know I have it?
The symptoms of gestational diabetes include:
- being thirsty
- having a dry mouth
- needing to urinate frequently
- recurrent infections, such as thrush (a yeast infection)
- blurred vision
When should I be checking?
When you have your first antenatal appointment, you will be assessed for risk factors of gestational diabetes. If you have any of the risks you should get a screening or test for gestational diabetes. Routine screening for gestational diabetes is usually done between weeks 24 to 28 of pregnancy.
How can it be treated?
The most important part of treatment is to control blood sugar levels. For many women, this means regular testing of blood sugar (glucose) levels, a carefully planned diet and regular exercise. Some women will require insulin injections. The extra insulin will not cross the placenta and will not affect the baby. Your doctor will advise you on a diet plan rich in carbohydrates and show you how to check your blood sugar levels to keep your condition in check. They might even prescribe you certain medication to help with the condition.
Your doctor will also need to monitor you and your baby closely so make sure you attend all your antenatal appointments
Can I monitor my own blood sugar levels?
In addition to the regular doctor visits and attending your antenatal appointments, you can use the at home monitoring system 4SURE SMART. It is a blood glucose monitoring system for Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes that is easy to use, exceeds ISO standards and is cost effective too.
Why is gestational diabetes so dangerous?
With the help of your doctor and a good diet, managing your pregnancy diabetes is easy these days. However, if it goes untreated both you and your baby are at risk of the following:
- You can go into preterm labour
- You can develop pre-eclampsia which is dangerous for both you and your baby
- High sugar levels can cause your baby to grow too big which can cause them to develop problem before and after birth.
- Your baby’s lungs might not develop properly in the womb
- Baby may suffer from hypoglycaemia – low blood sugar problems