Gestational Diabetes – A Comprehensive Overview

So, your sugar levels are high during pregnancy? Your doctor tells you that you have gestational diabetes. Your mind wonders – “How is it possible when I am not diabetic?”. Well, worry not. Gestational diabetes is a fairly common condition in which a pregnant woman without diabetes develops high blood sugar for the first time during pregnancy.

So, how is gestational diabetes different from regular diabetes and what are its features?

  • Unlike other regular types, gestational diabetes is a transient condition. Nevertheless, there are more chances to develop diabetes in the future.
  • It occurs due to the disturbed insulin’s role by pregnancy hormone, which leads to high blood sugar levels and is more common in the second trimester (but can occur at any phase).

So, how can you diagnose gestational diabetes?

The most common test done to check the blood sugar level range is known as the Glucose Tolerance Test.

The Glucose Tolerance Test screens the sugar levels in the blood between 24-28 weeks.

The values are then interpreted based on the values taken two times:

  • Fasting value
  • 1-hour post meal (postprandial)

The values are:

Normal Pregnancy Gestational Diabetes
Fasting 70-80 mg/dl <95 mg/dl
1 hour post meal 110-129mg/dl >190mg/dl

*These are general medical guidelines. Please follow your doctor’s instruction

So, who all are at risk of developing pregnancy diabetes?

Prevalence of gestational diabetes varies widely in India. However, an overall frequency of 15-20% is seen pan-India. It should be known that not all women who develop the condition have known risk factors, anyone can develop this.

You are at increased risks (and mostly need a screening) if any of the following apply to you:

  • History of gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • Positive family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Overweight (or) Body mass index 30 or above
  • Previously had a big baby which weighed > 4.5 kg at birth
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Medical history of a polycystic ovarian syndrome.
  • On certain medications like glucocorticoids (for autoimmune diseases), beta-blockers (for high blood pressure) or antipsychotic drugs (for mental health)

So, what are the symptoms of gestational diabetes?

Most women do not show any obvious symptoms.  But do speak to your doctor if you are experiencing any of the common symptoms of high blood sugar levels such as:

  • increased thirst (polydipsia)
  • urination (polyuria)
  • dry mouth (xerostomia)
  • fatigue
  • blurred vision

How can gestational diabetes prove harmful?

If well managed, you can have a smooth pregnancy (provided you listen to what your doctor says). Nonetheless, gestational diabetes can be harmful to the mother and child and may lead to:

    • In the mother

Pre-eclampsia, premature birth and chances for type 2 diabetes after delivery

  • In the baby

High birth weight, low glucose levels, jaundice and respiratory distress.

 

Are there any precautions that you can take to avoid gestational diabetes?

Unfortunately, no one can give you an assurance that you won’t get gestational diabetes. But there are ways to lower your risk- and you can make it less likely that you’ll develop the condition.

  1. By adopting a healthy lifestyle
  2. Eating a balanced diet
  3. Regular exercise

The takeaway message about gestational diabetes is:

  • It doesn’t always come with serious complications
  • Many women still have manageable pregnancies, vaginal deliveries, & healthy babies
  • It is best to be routinely tested for type 2 diabetes after delivery if you do have it
  • It’s important to keep up with a healthy lifestyle, despite it being a transient phase
  • Maintain a proper weight after you have your baby

 

 

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Aishwarya

Dr. Aishwarya Rajeev has completed her MDS degree and is currently pursuing her PhD. She is an avid reader and loves to teach and write!

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