Gestational diabetes
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Gestational diabetes is also referred to as glucose intolerant during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is a form of carbohydrate intolerance that starts or first gains recognition during pregnancy. Some cases of gestational diabetes leads to life long diabetes, although most cases disappear after the child is born.


Most physicians recommend being tested for gestational diabetes between weeks 24 and 28, regardless of whether or not a pregnant woman is showing any symptoms. Pregnancy can often mask the symptoms associated with gestational diabetes as much is likely to change in the body during this time. While symptoms are mild and do not pose a life threatening circumstance to the woman, increased glucose levels increase the risk for complications during childbirth including enlarged size of the baby, jaundice, hypoglycemia, and birth trauma. Although it is rare, severe gestational diabetes can lead to fetal death inside the womb.

Many women do not experience symptoms of gestational diabetes, or are not able to recognize that they are having symptoms until after the problem has been medically addressed. Symptoms may include an excessive level of thirst, increase in urine output, weight loss despite an increase in the appetite, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, frequent infections of the bladder, vagina, and skin, and blurry vision.
Gestational diabetes
Image: Gestational diabetes

Most believe that gestational diabetes is the result of hormonal changes in the body during pregnancy. Others believe that glucose sensitive women are likely to develop gestational diabetes. Many experts feel that it should not be called gestational diabetes, as it leaves the impression that the liver does not control glucose well, which is in fact only a partial concern in gestational diabetes.


Risk factors for developing gestational diabetes may include obesity, being older than 35 when pregnant, being of either African American or Hispanic descent, having developed gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies, having a previous baby whose birth weight was above 9 pounds, an unexplained death in either a fetus or newborn, congenital malformation in a previous baby, or the history of contracting recurrent infections.


The diagnosis of gestational diabetes is relatively simple. An oral glucose tolerance test is recommended for pregnant women between weeks 24 and 28 of their pregnancy. The glucose tolerance test is usually given after a fast and the woman’s ability to biologically handle a rush of glucose can determine the presence of gestational diabetes. This test typically involves fasting, the drinking of a very sweet drink, and then a blood sugar test after approximately 30 minutes.


Gestational diabetes tends to cause complications for the unborn baby rather than the woman carrying the baby. Complications may include low glucose levels in the newborn, newborn illness, a higher infant mortality rate, the development of diabetes later in life, including juvenile diabetes.


Treatment for gestational diabetes is also relatively simple. Treatment is likely to involve close monitoring of blood glucose levels, including self monitoring at home, and close monitoring of the fetal size. Ultrasound exams and non-stress tests are can help to monitor fetal size. Nutritional counseling is typically offered for women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. If dietary changes do not help the woman achieve the desired range of blood glucose, insulin is usually recommended to help achieve the desired results. These effective treatments decrease the risks significantly for a newborn.

Self care is very important when it comes to gestational diabetes. Sticking within recommended diets, monitoring glucose levels at home, and learning to inject the appropriate amount of insulin are all small steps a woman can take that can rectify the disease.


Coping skills are basic, as gestational diabetes presents very little threat when treated. Coping skills may include self education, physician assisted education, and learning the proper eating techniques to provide the best start for both mother and baby. Gestational diabetes is fairly common, especially in the United States where the diet is the farthest from a natural state. Switching to organic, natural foods can help the body process glucose better and is in fact healthier overall for both woman and baby. If glucose levels do not return to normal shortly after birth, a change in testing and diagnosis may be in order. Only about 1% of all cases develop into type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
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