Diabetes in pregnancy, cause, risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment
Gestational diabetes refers to diabetes that is diagnosed during pregnancy. The reason why you might develop diabetes while pregnant is because certain hormones made by your pancreas cause the body to be resistant to insulin. Carbohydrates provide your body with glucose which is an important fuel for your developing baby. If you have diabetes during pregnancy insulin fails to move glucose into the cells that need it. This leads to glucose getting stored in the blood which causes your blood sugar levels to rise. We diagnose gestational diabetes with a blood test.
So what are the risk factors?
So what are the risk factors associated with gestational diabetes? Factors such as family history of diabetes, being overweight, age (increased risk with age), history of given birth to a baby that was large for its gestational age or having had gestational diabetes in the past leads to an increased risk. Most women do not notice any symptoms but if your blood sugar is high you may experience; tiredness, you´re more thirsty than usual and also have to pee more often. The treatment focuses on modifying your diet so that your blood glucose levels stay balanced.
Advice regarding physical activity is also relevant. It is important to avoid high –sugar foods like sweets and soda. Also eating a reasonable amount of carbohydrates like breads, pasta and fruits. I always advice my patients to eat smaller and more frequent meals where you eat your carbohydrates throughout the day instead of a lot at once. The most important thing is to find a diet that makes you feel good and have a balanced blood sugar. When pregnant with gestational diabetes you are able to check your blood sugar at home. A small percentage of women with gestational diabetes following a diet will still need insulin therapy.
Having pregnancy diabetes can affect your baby in a few ways
Having gestational diabetes can affect your baby in a few ways, being exposed to higher sugar levels can result in a higher birth weight. When your blood sugar has been elevated during pregnancy, the baby may have low blood sugar shortly after birth because they produce extra insulin as a result of being exposed to the maternal bloodstream with high glucose levels. We therefore keep a close eye on the baby and perform blood tests to make sure that their blood sugar is balanced. I advise my patients to keep skin to skin contact with their newborn to help them regulate their body temperatures, this in turn leads to a balanced blood sugar and a baby that wants to eat. Gestational diabetes almost always disappears after the baby is born.
The Swedish diabetes association. (2018). Gestational diabetes. Retrieved 02/27/2019 from: http://www.diabetes.se/sv/Diabetes/Om-diabetes/Andra-diabetes-typer/
Hagberg, H., Marsal, K. Westergren, M. (2014). Obstetrics. Lund: Student literature
Lindgren, H., Christensson, K., Dykes, A-K. (2016).Reproductive health- a midwife´s area of expertise. Lund: Student literature
Read more about Sandra STRONGMom: Midwife Sandra Winberg