26 Apr Gestational Diabetes
While many people are aware there are two types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2, many do not realize there is a third type that can show up during pregnancy. This is called gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes can be controlled with proper medication and diet. However, if unchecked and uncontrolled, it can create long-lasting health problems for the mother and the infant.
There are many serious complications that arise from having diabetes, including generalized nerve damage, blindness and increased risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke. While gestational diabetes generally recedes after the pregnancy, it needs to be addressed as a serious health threat when it occurs.
About 2 percent to 10 percent of all pregnancies are affected by gestational diabetes, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So, while it is unlikely you will have this condition, it is not considered rare.
It is considered weight-related, as is Type 2 diabetes, so women who are overweight prior to pregnancy are more likely to come down with gestational diabetes than women who are a healthier weight.
Diabetes, Three Types, and Insulin
Diabetes is a condition that is related to two types of insulin dysfunctions. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas when glucose (sugar) levels rise in your bloodstream.
Type 1 diabetes is also called early-onset diabetes, as it begins during childhood. It is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the pancreas and prevents it from secreting enough insulin when needed. Without enough insulin, blood sugar levels rise, which can be extremely dangerous to your health over the long term.
Type 2 diabetes generally strikes at adult ages and is associated with obesity. With Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas continues to secrete insulin, but the body becomes resistant to it. In response, the pancreas makes more and more insulin to lower glucose levels, but it eventually just can’t keep up, as the body remains resistant to it.
Gestational diabetes is different from Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. With gestational diabetes, the placenta secretes hormones that contribute to high glucose levels in your blood. The woman’s pancreas cannot keep up with the demand for that much insulin, which causes glucose levels to rise.
Gestational diabetes: Problems
The problems with gestational diabetes can be temporary, but serious complications can last a lifetime. Control is possible, but it generally takes diet, exercise, medication and close monitoring to keep diabetes in check.
Problems to the mother:
These symptoms are related to high glucose levels, although they recede as glucose levels go down if caught in time.
- Blurry vision
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased risk of yeast infections
- Increased risk of cesarean delivery (due to over-sized infant)
While these recede if caught in time, women who have gestational diabetes are more likely later in life to be hit with Type 2 diabetes. As such, if you have gestational diabetes, you will need to monitor your blood sugar periodically after delivery. Make this a routine part of your check-ups with your doctor.
How Gestational Diabetes Affects Your Baby
- Fast growth
- Increased risk of obesity
- Increased risk of Type 2 diabetes later in life
- Increased risk of an unhealthy delivery
If gestational diabetes is not controlled and blood sugars run high, the baby will be over-fed in the womb. Basically, the baby will be fed too much sugar.
When this occurs, the baby will grow faster than normal. Some babies under these conditions grow to nine pounds, 50 percent larger than the average weight of a newborn, which is five to six pounds.
There is also the risk of brain damage from extended exposure to high glucose levels.
When blood glucose levels are too low, it is called hypoglycemia. This is also a very dangerous, potentially fatal condition.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Feeling faint
- Sweating or chills
- Rapid heartbeat
- Sudden weakness
- Fatigue, drowsiness
- Blurred vision
- Feeling shaky
Diabetes can be controlled, but it isn’t always easy, especially for someone who has longstanding poor eating habits.
To control diabetes:
- See your doctor regularly
- Consult with a dietician
- Take your medications as prescribed
- Monitor blood glucose levels as prescribed
- Exercise regularly