Gestational Diabetes: Cause, Risk factor, Diagnosis,Treatment & Complications

Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy (gestation). Gestational diabetes causes blood sugar levels to become too high like Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Updated: June 16, 2022

Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy (gestation). Gestational diabetes causes blood sugar levels to become too high like Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes needs to be recognized and treated quickly because it can cause health problems for both mother and baby. Gestational diabetes can be controlled by eating healthy foods, exercising and, if necessary, taking medication. Controlling blood sugar can prevent a difficult birth and keep you and your baby healthy. Blood sugar level usually returns to normal soon after delivery in gestational diabetes. you are at risk for type 2 diabetes if you have gestational diabetes.


Cause of Gestational Diabetes:

Your digestive system breaks down most of the food you consume into a sugar called glucose.Insulin ,a hormone that is produced from your pancreas helps absorbing glucose from your blood to work as fuel for muscle, fat, and other cells. But if the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin or if the cells have a problem responding to it, too much glucose remains in your blood instead of moving into cells and getting converted to energy.
In pregnancy your body needs additional insulin to process excess glucose in blood. The pancreas secretes more insulin as the body demands more.But if the pancreas can't keep up with the increased demand for insulin during pregnancy, blood sugar levels rise too high because the cells aren't using the glucose. This results in gestational diabetes.

Risk factors for Gestational Diabetes:

Gestational Diabetes can be developed if you are:

  •     age 25 or older
  •     have a family history of diabetes
  •     are overweight, especially if your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher
  •     have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  •     have a medical condition that makes diabetes more likely, such as glucose intolerance
  •     take certain medications like glucocorticoids (for asthma or an autoimmune disease),  beta-blockers (for high blood pressure or a rapid heart rate), or antipsychotic drugs (for mental health problems)
  •     have had gestational diabetes before
  •     have had a big baby before (macrosomia)


Diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes:

Usually gestational diabetes does not show any noticeable signs or symptoms. A screening test will be done to diagnose gestational diabetes  between 24 and 28 weeks of your pregnancy. 
Oral glucose screening test is the most common test for gestational diabetes. This test is done to measures how efficiently your body produces insulin. A sweet liquid will be provided you to drink On the day of the test and two hour later,  blood test is done to check your glucose levels. If your blood test shows that your blood sugar is too high, oral glucose tolerance test will be done as a next step. In this test your blood will be tested at fasting. A sweet liquid will be provided you to drink then and you will have a blood test again and again in the interval of one, two, and three hours. If the result of two tests shows your blood sugar is too high, you will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.


Treatment of Gestational Diabetes:

Gestational Diabetes can be managed by following a regular exercise, eating a balanced, healthy diet based on whole grains, lean proteins, vegetables, and other foods that release sugar slowly. If not controlled by a healthy lifestyle then gestational diabetes need to take medication or insulin to balance their blood sugar only on doctor's recommendation.
Monitoring your own blood sugar is a vital part of your treatment plan which can be done at home by a glucometer. Urine tests that check for ketones can be done to ensure that your blood sugar is under control.


Complications that may affect your baby:

If you have gestational diabetes, your baby can have


Excessive birth weight:

Your baby can grow too large (macrosomia) as the extra glucose in your bloodstream crosses the placenta, which triggers your baby's pancreas to make extra insulin. Large babies can get stuck in the birth canal while being born (shoulder dystocia), which can injure nerves in the neck and shoulder (brachial plexus injury). Large babies are more likely to be delivered by c-section.


Early (preterm) birth and respiratory distress syndrome:

If you have gestational diabetes .You may also have a higher risk of high blood pressure or preeclampsia. These conditions make preterm labor more likely and can cause health problems for you and your baby. Babies born early may experience respiratory distress syndrome ,a condition that makes breathing difficult. Babies with this syndrome may need help breathing until their lungs mature and become stronger.


Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia):

Your baby may develop hypoglycemia that is low blood sugar shortly after birth because their own insulin production is high. Prompt feedings and sometimes an intravenous glucose solution can return the baby's blood sugar level to normal.


Type 2 diabetes later in life:

Your baby will have a higher risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.


Complications that may affect you:

Gestational diabetes may also increase your risk of:


High blood pressure and preeclampsia:

Gestational diabetes raises your risk of high blood pressure, as well as preeclampsia that can threaten the lives of both mother and baby.


Future diabetes:

You are more likely to get it again during a future pregnancy. Also you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life as you grow older if you have gestational diabetes.

However, making healthy lifestyle choices such as eating healthy foods and regular exercising can help reduce the risk of future type 2 diabetes.


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