Home Pregnancy Complications Gestational Diabetes – Causes & Risks

Gestational Diabetes – Causes & Risks

When women develop diabetes during pregnancy, then it is called gestational diabetes. It is a condition in which your blood sugar levels get high during pregnancy. 

Glucose is one of the major sources of energy in the body. It comes from the digestion of carbohydrates and is carried by the bloodstream to the body cells. 

But glucose can not enter the cells on its own. It requires assistance from a hormone produced by the pancreas called insulin. 

Insulin induces the cells to take up glucose present in the blood. Diabetes is a condition in which insulin is either deficient or not used effectively. 

Without insulin, glucose can not enter the cells. Therefore it stays in the blood causing high blood sugar levels.

Causes of gestational diabetes

During the pregnancy, a temporary organ develops connecting to the mother and the fetus called the placenta. The placenta supplies the fetus with all the nutrients and oxygen. It also produces many hormones that work to maintain pregnancy. 

Some of these hormones impair the action, thereby making it less effective. This counteracting effect usually begins at about 20 to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

This effect intensifies as the placenta grows larger and becomes most prominent in the last couple of months. Usually, the pancreas can adjust by producing more insulin. 

But in some cases, the number of placental hormones may get too overwhelming for the pancreas to compensate. This results in gestational diabetes. 

Who is at risk of developing gestational diabetes?

  • Anyone can develop gestational diabetes. But those who are overweight or have a family or personal history of diabetes are at higher risks.
  • Women who suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or health conditions related to insulin.
  • Women who have blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, or other complications.
  • Other risk factors include age (older than 25) or having previously given birth to larger babies 

Risk factors for gestational diabetes

  • It might lead to complications if the condition is severe or poorly managed.
  • Due to the constant high glucose levels in the mother’s blood, the fetus may get too many nutrients and supply those to the baby. This results in increased weight of the baby, complicating the birth process.
  • Shortly after the birth, your baby may have sudden decreases in blood sugar as there is no more glucose from the mother. This condition is called hypoglycemia. Your baby should be fed immediately and in some cases, IV glucose is given to stabilize the baby’s blood sugar level.
  • Mothers are most likely to have a surgical delivery (C-section) if they have gestational diabetes.
  • High blood sugar may also increase blood pressure, which may cause preterm birth.
  • Both mother and child are more likely to develop diabetes in the future.

Management of gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes can be managed or successfully prevented by following the given steps.

  • Eating healthy balanced diets
  • By having regular physical exercise
  • Managing a healthy weight during pregnancy
  • Taking the right medication
  • Some cases may also require insulin injection

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