Gestational diabetes is a kind of diabetes which affects only pregnant women. The disease usually goes away by itself after childbirth. But if pregnancy diabetes is completely ignored, this problem can turn into a more serious disease – type II diabetes which causes a whole lot of complications and unpleasant consequences.
Every future mother is visiting her obstetrician-gynecologist on a regular basis. So, during the whole pregnancy term, there are professionals who monitor the state of health of the woman and her unborn child and make a future mother do necessary tests and pass medical examinations.
If the glucose level in the blood and urine samples is suddenly too high, a single such case shouldn’t be a reason for concern or panic because it’s a physiological standard for the pregnant. But when the test results have shown such findings more than once and sugar in the blood and in urine has been found not after a meal (it would be normal) but on an empty stomach, we can speak about gestational diabetes.
The causes of gestational diabetes, its symptoms and risk factors
According to the statistics, about 10% of women suffer from complications during pregnancy. And there is a certain risk group among them which is inclined to gestational diabetes. Here belong women:
- With a genetic predisposition to pregnancy diabetes;
- With excess weight or obesity;
- Suffering from ovarian diseases (for example, polycystosis);
- Pregnant after 30;
- With gestational diabetes in medical history.
There are a few widespread causes of gestational diabetes, the main reason for it being impaired glucose tolerance (like in a state preceding type II diabetes). It can be explained by the increased load on the pancreas during pregnancy. As a result, the gland can fail to produce insulin which controls the level of sugar in the organism. The “guilty party” in such a situation is the placenta which is secreting hormones counteracting insulin and increasing the glucose level (insulin resistance).
The “confrontation” between the placental hormones and insulin usually occurs in the 28th-36th weeks of pregnancy and, as a rule, it happens due to the insufficient physical activity of the future mother (which can be partially explained by the natural pregnancy weight gain).
The symptoms of gestational diabetes are similar to those of type II diabetes:
- Increased sense of thirst;
- No appetite, or, to the contrary, constant hunger;
- Discomfort caused by frequent urination;
- Raised blood pressure;
- Blurred vision.
If you’ve experienced even one of the aforementioned symptoms or you belong to a risk group, tell your gynecologist about it. The doctor will check you up for gestational diabetes – the eventual diagnosis is determined not only in the presence of one or a few symptoms but also on the grounds of medical tests’ results. You should pass these tests correctly for the medical conclusion to be trustworthy: don’t change your diet or lifestyle before doing the tests.
These blood sugar levels are normal for pregnant women:
- The average fasting glucose levels – 69-75 mg/dL;
- 105-108 mg/dL – one hour after eating.
If the test results cause any doubts (the fasting sugar is slightly higher than normal), the doctor performs the glucose tolerance test (5 minutes after providing the first blood sample, the woman drinks a glucose solution) in order to detect possible pregnancy diabetes.
Why is gestational diabetes dangerous for the baby?
In order to keep the fetus safe, the future mother needs such hormones as cortisol, estrogen, and lactogen. However, these hormones resist insulin, which disrupts the normal functioning of the pancreatic gland – that’s why not only the future mom but also her unborn child is suffering the consequences.
The fetal development is mostly finished by the second trimester, so gestational diabetes after the 16th-20th week can’t lead to the internal organs’ anomalies. Moreover, modern medical science is able to help avoid complications; however, there is still a risk of diabetic fetopathy – the fetus gains too much weight and there is a possibility of developmental disorders.
The most widespread symptom of diabetic fetopathy on the background of gestational diabetes is macrosomia – the fetus becomes too large in size and gains too much weight. It happens due to the increased amount of glucose the fetus is getting. The pancreas of the baby is still underdeveloped and also produces insulin which turns the excess sugar into fat. As a result, the head and limbs of the baby are normal in size, but the shoulder girdle, heart, liver, abdomen become disproportionately large, the fat layer is noticeable. The consequences of such a situation can be:
- Complicated birth – too broad shoulders of the baby can’t easily fit into the birth canal;
- Due to the same reason, the internal organs of the mother can be injured during childbirth, and the baby can receive traumas;
- The underdeveloped fetus can gain too much weight which can trigger premature birth.
Another diabetic fetopathy symptom is respiratory disorders of the newborn after childbirth. It happens because of the low lung surfactant – the substance in the lungs which reduces the surface tension of fluid and helps make the small air sacs more stable. That’s why the newborn can be put into the specific incubator. It’ll need constant monitoring and sometimes even artificial lung ventilation.
The treatment and preventive measures against gestational diabetes
As we’ve already mentioned, the main cause of gestational diabetes is increased blood sugar, that’s why the treatment and preventive measures against this disease are based on the control of glucose levels in the female body.
The pregnant woman will have to regularly pass the tests and observe the doctors’ recommendations to the letter. Besides, she’ll need to change her lifestyle and diet.
As the worldwide medical practice and statistics show, the key factor to the perfect health of a future mom and her baby is a healthy pregnancy diet which is necessary, first of all, for the normalization of glucose levels in the body (not for weight loss). It’s important to eat fewer calories, but more nutrients. That means:
- No baked goods and candy. But don’t avoid carbohydrates altogether – they are a source of energy.
- Don’t eat too much fruit – there are a lot of easily digestible carbohydrates.
- No fast food and semi-products.
- Avoid consuming sausages, margarine, mayonnaise, butter, pork.
- Eat more proteins.
- You should prefer boiled, stewed, baked or steamed food.
- Eat in small portions every three hours.
Besides, it’ll be beneficial for the expectant mother:
- To do pregnancy exercises;
- To get enough fresh air by walking for at least an hour per day.
Physical activity will help to neutralize the excess sugar, improve metabolism, and make you feel better in general. Be healthy!