Gestational Diabetes – A common Syndrome during Pregnancy
Pregnant women who have never had diabetes before but who have high blood glucose (sugar) levels during pregnancy are said to have gestational diabetes. According to a 2014 analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of gestational diabetes is as high as 9.2%.
Women who are obese or who have had gestational diabetes during their previous pregnancy, or women who have a strong family history of diabetes are at a high risk of developing gestational diabetes.
Untreated or poorly controlled gestational diabetes can be harmful to the foetus. When one has gestational diabetes, the pancreas works overtime to produce insulin. But the insulin does not lower the blood glucose levels. Although insulin does not cross the placenta, glucose and other nutrients do. So extra blood glucose goes through the placenta (organ attached to the lining of the womb during pregnancy), giving the baby high blood glucose levels. This causes the babys pancreas to make extra insulin to get rid of the blood glucose. Since the baby gets more energy than it needs in order to grow and develop, the extra energy is stored as fat, and thus the baby puts on weight, which can increase the risk of early labor.
Babies with macrosomia (heavy weight) face health problems of their own, including damage to their shoulders during birth. Because of the extra insulin made by the babys pancreas, it may cause low blood glucose levels at birth and could also put the newborn at a higher risk for breathing problems. Babies with excess insulin become children who are at risk for obesity and after they grow up they are at risk for type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes raises the risk of high blood pressure in mothers and also puts them at a high risk of developing diabetes during future pregnancy, and making them more likely to develop type 2 diabetes when they get older. However, this can be avoided by adopting a healthy lifestyle, which includes consuming a healthy diet and doing regular exercises.