What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational Diabetes happens when the maternal insulin is not able to optimally process the sugar (blood glucose) present in the blood stream during pregnancy. Insulin is secreted by the pancreas and used as the key that opens the cells so glucose can be converted in to energy for the body to function properly. When there is sub optimal ability or insufficient amount of insulin in the body to process blood sugar there an excess of glucose (hyperglycemia) that requires immediate attention to avoid harm to the mother and baby.
How do I know if I have Gestational Diabetes?
The risk for Gestational Diabetes is screened by using blood work and/or an hour screening Glucose Challenge Test and it is generally diagnosed between 24-28 weeks using a 3 hour Oral Glucose Challenge test. Basically a sugar load is given to the mother and the body is monitored for how it processes the sugar. Please note screening timing may vary depending on your risk factors.
Can Gestational Diabetes hurt my baby?
Insulin does not cross from the mother to the baby but sugar (glucose) and other nutrients do. When the increased maternal sugar level reaches the growing fetus harmful things may happen. The unused glucose level by the baby is stored as fat and the baby has the tendency to be larger (macrosomia). Also the baby’s pancreas is challenged to increase its production of insulin creating a chance of increased fetal urination (polyhydramnios) and hypoglycemia just after birth as there is too much insulin once the baby is separated from the maternal circulation. In addition the new born may have a higher chance of neonatal jaundice, premature delivery, shortness of breath, and birth trauma (shoulder dystocia) which may increase the baby’s hospital stay and health.
Can gestational diabetes hurt the mother?
Besides the 4p’s (polyurea , polyphagia, paresthesia, polydipsia) of diabetes. The mother has a high risk for hypertension (pre-eclampsia), increased risk for C-section or injury to the vaginal tissue due to the increased size of the baby, and slower healing post-partum with an increased risk for infection. There is also a 10 fold increased risk for the mother to get type 2 diabetes within 10 years.
Managing Gestational Diabetes is crucial to a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. It can feel overwhelming on top of everything else that goes on while you are pregnant. Eating a healthy diet, avoiding processed foods, minimizing sugars, exercising, and taking your medications as prescribed by your OBGYN are the key to increase your chances for a healthy life and a healthy baby.