Find out all you need to know about gestational diabetes and what the implications are for your pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes is a relatively uncommon condition and only affects between 2% and 14% of pregnancies. It's a form of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy, and usually disappears after you've given birth.
As with other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes develops when your body is unable to produce enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate the amount of sugar in your body. When pregnant your body has to produce extra insulin to accommodate your growing little one. However if your body is unable to meet this extra demand for insulin, your blood sugar levels could rise.
Who can develop it?
Though it's possible for gestational diabetes to affect any pregnancy, it's generally more likely to affect those in a 'higher-risk group' which could include:
- Those with a BMI above 30 (check your BMI here)
- Those who have had diabetes before
- Those whose family have a history of diabetes
- Those who have given birth to a large baby before
If you're in a 'higher-risk group' you may be given tests at your ante-natal appointments to check your blood sugar levels. Additionally, there are symptoms you can look out for, but as many of them are present in pregnancy anyway, only a test can tell for sure if you've developed the condition. Symptoms can include fatigue, excessive thirst, or blurred vision.
What are the risks?
If there is too much sugar in your blood, some of it could pass across your placenta to your baby. This may present a problem because if your baby is exposed to too much sugar while in the womb he or she could grow very large, making labour and birth more difficult. You may be required to have a caesarean section
or there's a possibility your baby may be born prematurely.
Another possible complication of gestational diabetes is that if your baby has too much sugar in his or her blood, they may develop jaundice after birth and are more at risk of weight problems later on in life.
What can I do about it?
If your doctor does diagnose you with gestational diabetes, it's likely that you'll be recommended to make some changes to your diet and perhaps embark on a new exercise regime. As your blood sugar levels will need to be controlled, you'll have to cut down on sugary drinks and foods in favour of healthier choices
and in some cases you may have to restrict your calorie intake.
Throughout your pregnancy your blood sugar levels will be monitored, and you may have extra ultrasound checks to make sure all is well. In rare cases you may be given extra shots of insulin to help regulate your blood sugar levels.
Generally gestational diabetes is not a serious condition and once identified can be easily monitored and cared for by your doctor. After your baby is born, your blood sugar levels should return to normal and the condition will in most cases disappear completely. You and your newborn will be checked at post-natal appointments just to be on the safe side.