What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes, or pregnancy diabetes, is a type of diabetes which develops between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy in women which have never had a problem with diabetes in the past. It is one of the most common complications which occurs during pregnancy: it affects approximately 5% of pregnant women.
For people with diabetes, the body can no longer obtain insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone which is produced by the pancreas and allows the body to transform food into sources of energy. It is then stored in the form of sugar, or glucose, which enters into cells when insulin is present in the blood stream. For diabetic patients, insulin is totally absent or does not function correctly. The body therefore can no longer absorb the glucose which is necessary for each cell to function. Glucose accumulates in the blood and the cells begin to lack the necessary energy fuel.
Risks of gestational diabetes
During pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones which are found in the mother’s blood stream and alter her ability to use insulin. Consequently, glucose accumulates little by little in the mother’s blood which passes into the placenta and can lead to problems for the baby. Children whose mother has pregnancy diabetes are more at risk of macrosomia (being significantly bigger in size than normal babies of the same age), or hypoglycaemia (weak blood glucose levels). They are also at greater risk of suffering from type 2 diabetes later in life.
Treatment for gestational diabetes
Fortunately, gestational diabetes is a very controllable illness. The vast majority of pregnant women who have this disorder give birth to healthy children. It is recommended that women with gestational diabetes follow a set of hygiene regimes to limit the inconveniences: control their blood sugar, follow a healthy diet, take part in regular physical exercise and maintain a reasonable weight.