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Facts on Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that affects women during pregnancy, usually resolving with delivery of the baby. It is like type 2 diabetes in that it is a resistance to insulin and it is generally inherited, being obese can also be a factor. Type 1 diabetes is when people require injections of insulin as their pancreas cannot produce its own. The body needs insulin for its cells to access energy. If the mother does not have enough insulin or their cells become resistant to it, the energy or "sugar" stays in the bloodstream where it can be picked up via blood tests. The baby receives all the excess energy in the blood when it crosses the placenta, and is essentially 'overfed'. The excess energy causes the baby to produce large amounts of fat (stored energy) which increases the mother's risk for a Caesarean section as the baby is so big. The baby can suffer attacks of hypoglycemia in the early stages after delivery as they suddenly lack the constant high blood sugar levels that the placenta was providing in utero. They are at increased risk for birth injuries due to their size and can also have problems breathing (respiratory distress syndrome), and longer than usual neonatal jaundice. Factors that increase the risk of a woman developing gestational diabetes include being obese, previous gestational diabetes, ethnicity (eg African American, Native American and Hispanic), age (>30), family history of diabetes, and previous poor results of a pregnancy eg miscarriage or deformity. A single incidence of gestational diabetes can increase a woman's' vulnerability to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Ways to prevent gestational diabetes is to maintain a healthy weight before, during and after delivery, and screening for diabetes should be offered to every pregnant woman (normally during 24-28 weeks gestation, unless they are high risk which requires earlier screening). The screening tool is called the glucose tolerance test where the expecting mother drinks a really sweet drink and has a blood test 1 hour later. Confirmed gestational diabetes can be treated with a healthy diet and regular light exercise, but some expecting mothers have to use insulin as well and they should have frequent visits to an obstetrician. There is a very good chance that the diabetes will return with subsequent pregnancies, there is also the possibility that the diabetes will not subside once the baby is born, particularly in overweight women.

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About: Facts on Gestational Diabetes

Date: 9 June 2005


Author: Susan Burke


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