Gestational Diabetes: What is it?

Diabetes is a scary thought for many people, especially those who have known someone who suffers from it.  It can be especially scary for a woman who is pregnant to hear her doctor mention diabetes.  Pregnancy can be stressful enough without additional health worries.  All a mother-to-be wants to hear is that her baby is healthy and doing fine.  Many sources agree that women who have no personal or family history of diabetes may still suffer from gestational diabetes which will often occur around week 28 of the pregnancy.  While the higher blood sugar levels may not affect her like they would with type I and type II diabetes, it can be detrimental to the unborn baby.

Though most women carefully monitor their diet and lifestyle while pregnant, this becomes especially crucial if diagnosed with gestational diabetes.  Oftentimes, there will be no symptoms that present except that few may experience constant thirst and frequent urination (more so than normal).  This makes it all the more important for pregnant women to have regular doctor’s visits throughout the pregnancy.  It is routine for doctors to check for gestational diabetes, and if a woman develops it, she may need to schedule more frequent appointments, especially during the third trimester, so that the doctor can monitor the baby’s progress.

According to NIH Publication No. 06–5129 “What I Need to Know about Gestational Diabetes” in April 2006, 3%-8% of pregnant women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes.  At the first prenatal appointment, a doctor can assess a woman’s risk for developing gestational diabetes during the pregnancy.  If there is a history of a parent or sibling who has diabetes, or if the mother-to-be is of African American, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, or Pacific Islander descent, is 25 years or older, is overweight, has been diagnosed with gestational diabetes previously, has given birth to at least one 9-pound (or more) baby, and/or has been diagnosed with “pre-diabetes”, she may be at a higher risk for gestational diabetes and will be monitored more closely.

Gestational diabetes can affect the baby’s growth during pregnancy.  The baby may be larger at birth and may have extra fat which can lead to a difficult and dangerous delivery for the baby.  The baby could be born with a low blood glucose count and experience breathing problems right after birth.  Both the mother and the baby are then at a higher risk of developing type II diabetes.  Knowing is the first half of the battle.  Is it time you got tested?


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