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Gestational Diabetes

The type of diabetes that affects pregnant women is gestational diabetes. At least five in every 100 women will develop it. It’s usually diagnosed from a blood test 24-28 weeks into pregnancy.

Women with gestational diabetes don’t have diabetes before their pregnancy – and it usually goes away after giving birth. But, in some women, diabetes may be diagnosed in the first trimester. If this is the case, they probably had diabetes before they got pregnant and it won’t go away after giving birth.

Causes

A lot of change happens to your body during pregnancy. the hormones you produce during pregnancy make it hard for your body to use the insulin effectively. This puts you at an increased risk of insulin resistance and some women cannot produce enough insulin to overcome it. This makes it difficult to use glucose (sugar) properly for energy, so it stays in your blood and the blood sugar levels rise. This then leads to gestational diabetes.

Who’s At Risk

You are more likely to get gestational diabetes if you:

  • Are overweight or obese
  • Have had it before
  • Have had a very large baby in a previous pregnancy (4.5kg or more)
  • Have a family history of diabetes (parents or sibling)

Women can reduce their risk by managing weight, eating healthily and keeping active before pregnancy.

Having gestational diabetes can increase your risk of developing it in future pregnancies. You are also at a risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Symptoms

Many women do not have any noticeable symptoms. Some of the of symptoms are similar to the ones experienced in pregnancy, but these are rare in gestational diabetes.

Symptoms may include:

  • Going to the toilet more often
  • Feeling really tired
  • Feeling very thirsty

Treatment

Day to day it is about keeping your blood sugar levels under control in order to have a healthy pregnancy and reduce the risk of complications. You will have to regularly monitor your blood sugars at home to help with the treatment plan.

Target blood glucose levels:-

Fasting – less than or equal to 92mg/dl

1 hour post-meals – less than or equal to 140mg/dl

For some women, making changes to their diet and physical activity can help them reach their target blood sugar levels. But, in most cases alongside diet and exercise medications including injecting insulin may be needed.

Possible Complications

If your gestational diabetes isn’t looked after properly, it can increase your risk of complications. Having high blood sugar levels during pregnancy can lead to:

  • Induced labour
  • C-section
  • Having a larger than normal baby, which could make for a more painful birth and possible stress for the baby
  • Your newborn might have low blood sugar levels
  • Your baby having a higher risk of being overweight or obese and developing type 2 diabetes in later life. As your child grows, managing their weight, eating healthily and being physically active will reduce this risk.

Making A Difference

On the bright sideyour active involvement plays a huge part in the management of gestational diabetes. The main ways you can do this are by:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Being as active as you can
  • Regularly monitoring your blood sugars
  • Taking your medication as prescribed
  • Getting support to look after yourself
  • Going to your doctor’s appointments regularly

Question Corner

Will injecting into my abdomen hurt my baby?

You may be worried about injecting insulin in your abdomen while you are pregnant for fear of hurting your baby but with a short (4-6mm) needle, you can inject into the fatty layer safely. Your baby is growing in the uterus, which is several layers below the skin. Insulin needles are very short and can’t touch your baby. Avoid the area too close to your belly button.

Can you get type 2 diabetes?

Having gestational diabetes increases your risk of developing the condition in future pregnancies. It also increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. It’s important to eat healthily and be involved in regular physical activity during pregnancy and to keep it up afterwards. This will reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes again as well as your future risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Will your baby have diabetes?

Your baby has no more risk of developing diabetes in childhood than any other baby. But, having gestational diabetes meansyour baby may have a higher risk of being overweight or obese and/or developing type 2 diabetes later in life.