What Is Gestational Diabetes?
The condition that is caused by too much glucose (sugar) in the blood is known as diabetes. There is a type of diabetes that affects pregnant women and is known as gestational diabetes. In most people the glucose level in the blood is controlled by the hormone known as insulin. With some pregnant women the glucose levels in their blood rise and their bodies cannot produce enough insulin to transport it all to the cells. When a woman is first diagnosed with diabetes during her pregnancy it is known as gestational diabetes. There are another two types being type 1 diabetes which is when the body does not produce any insulin at all (type 1 can also be referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes, juvenile diabetes or early-onset diabetes) and there is type 2 diabetes when the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells in the body have a resistance to insulin and so therefore do not react to it. It is thought that approximately fourteen in every one hundred pregnant women will be affected by gestational diabetes. Exercise and diet usually help to control the condition but ten to twenty per cent of women with gestational diabetes will need medication to control the glucose levels in their blood. It is important that if you have this condition it is diagnosed early because it needs to be controlled. The risks associated with it not being detected and monitored by your doctor are complications at birth particularly shoulder dystocia when the baby’s shoulder gets stuck during birth and babies being large for their gestational age. Gestational diabetes usually develops in the second or third trimester so from week fourteen in pregnancy to the birth and disappears after the baby’s birth. Women who have this condition during their pregnancy are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later on in their lives. If you have gestational diabetes and your baby is growing at what is considered a normal rate you may be advised to have your labour induced after week thirty-eight. You can wait for your labour to begin naturally as long as your doctor or midwife thinks it is safe to do so. If your unborn baby is considered macrosomic (large for his gestational age) then your options for birth should be discussed with you by your doctor or midwife. You will probably be advised to deliver your baby in a hospital so that you have professionally trained medical staff on call all day and night who are fully trained and experienced in resuscitating newborn babies. Every hour during your labour and the birth your blood glucose will be measured and controlled and after two to four hours from the birth your baby’s blood glucose will be measured too. If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes you will be advised by your doctor as to how to monitor and control your blood glucose levels. For about eighty per cent of women with gestational diabetes the condition can be controlled by taking more exercise and changing their diets according to their doctor’s advice. As a pregnant woman with this condition you would be shown how to monitor your blood glucose levels and your unborn baby will be closely observed and monitored. By Eirian Hallinan