In some women, hormones from the placenta block insulin from doing its job, resulting in high glucose levels. This causes hyperglycemia (or high levels of sugar in the blood). If unchecked, this can damage the nerves, blood vessels and organs in the mother’s body, and also cause complications in pregnancy.
There are no tell-tale symptoms of gestational diabetes. Hence, all pregnant women are recommended to take the glucose-screening test sometime between the 24th and 28th weeks.
Some women may however experience extreme thirst, frequent urination, feel fatigued, and maybe more prone to snoring during sleep.
Women who fall under these categories should be extra concerned about developing the disease:
- Women who are obese (with BMI over 30).
- Women who have had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy.
- Women who have sugar in their urine.
- Women who have a strong family history of diabetes.
- Women who have had an unexplained stillbirth previously.
- Women who have had a baby with a birth defect.
- Women who have high blood pressure.
- Women who are above 35.
Although is most cases, most women who develop diabetes during pregnancy go on to have healthy babies, in some cases if the disease, is left untreated, can cause harm to the mother and the baby.
Excessive sugar would circulate in the mother’s blood and enter the baby’s bloodstream through the placenta, putting the baby at risk. The baby is likely to grow too large – a condition called macrosomia – making delivery more difficult and C-section more likely.
There are also chances of the mother suffering from pre-eclampsia (pregnancy induced hypertension) owing to gestational diabetes. This can then make the baby prone to jaundice, breathing difficulties, and low blood sugar levels.
Things to do to avoid gestational diabetes and to keep it under control (if detected):
- Exercise and stay active as it helps the body burn more glucose, and is a great way to keep blood sugar under check.
- Eating a healthy diet which is high on fruits and vegetables and low on fat and processed sugar would also help keep diabetes under check.
- Maintain a healthy weight and BMI at all times during pregnancy,
- Once diabetes has been detected, mothers should maintain a proper food log of every meal they are eating and the associated glucose levels.
- Meet a dietician regularly. Follow a strict doctor-prescribed diet plan,
- Monitor blood sugar levels daily. Get the fasting rate in the morning and then every hour after each meal to make sure that the blood sugar stays in a healthy range.
- Even after delivery, keep up with the healthy diet plan. Stay in regular touch with the nutritionist and dietician.
- Breastfeeding for as long as possible, as it has been found to decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, after gestational diabetes.
- Even babies who are born to mothers with gestational diabetes should be tested for low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) after birth, even if they have no symptoms.
- Also, ensure that the baby maintains a healthy and fit lifestyle as he grows older. And his meals should be nutritious and healthy.