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14 of September, 2022
Gestational Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms, Risks, And Precautions

Pregnancy complications are always a concern for expecting couples. Hence, they opt for a non-invasive prenatal test to put their minds at ease. Moreover, with prenatal genetic testing costs seeing a steady decline, it is quite convenient to get the procedure done. However, it isn’t enough as a diagnostic tool. The expertise of a trusted OB/GYN is required to deal with other pregnancy-related complications, one being gestational diabetes. 

Everything you must know about gestational diabetes.

What is gestational diabetes?

It is a form of diabetes that specifically occurs during gestation aka pregnancy. Much like other forms of diabetes, it makes it difficult to optimally utilize the blood sugar in your cells. This in turn causes high blood sugar levels in your body, causing complications for you as well as the unborn child. 

Are there any noticeable symptoms?

Just like Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, this condition does not have overt symptoms. If you urinate frequently or are feeling thirsty most of the time, then it could be an indicator that you have gestational diabetes. 

What are the underlying causes of gestational diabetes?

From a scientific standpoint, there are no clear indicators of gestational diabetes. However, one of the major causes is speculated to be fluctuating hormones. They play an important role in managing our body’s glucose levels. During pregnancy, the drastic change in hormone levels can possibly contribute to this condition. Apart from this, excessive weight gain during pregnancy is also believed to be a contributing factor. 

Are certain people more prone to develop this condition?

While exact causes are unknown, there are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of someone getting gestational diabetes. A few such factors are listed down below:

  • Being overweight or obese: While some weight gain is to be expected during pregnancy, women who have a high body weight before conceiving are at a higher risk of developing the condition. 
  • Physical inactivity: Strenuous activity is not recommended during pregnancy. However, some basic movements like walking and moving around the house should not be stopped, as physical inactivity along with rapid weight gain can lead to gestational diabetes. 
  • Women with prediabetes: Prediabetes is a condition where a person’s blood sugar levels are high, but not high enough to be called diabetes. If untreated, it will progress towards Type 2 diabetes. Hence, those who already have prediabetes before conceiving must be very careful during their pregnancy.
  • Gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy: Developing certain complications in a previous pregnancy can lead to a higher probability of encountering the same complication in the next one. Hence, women who had gestational diabetes in their previous pregnancy are likely to get in again.
  • Women with polycystic ovary syndrome: Women suffering from PCOS already have high insulin levels in their blood. Hence, when insulin levels rise further during the second and third trimesters, they have a high chance of developing gestational diabetes.
  • Family history of diabetes: Diabetes is a hereditary condition in some cases. At the very least, it increases the probability of one having this condition. Hence, if you have a close family member or relative who has diabetes, then take adequate precautions.

What complications can I develop due to gestational diabetes?

There are a plethora of complications with respect to gestational diabetes that can affect both you and your child. 

Complications Impacting The Child

  • Increased birth weight: Having abnormal blood glucose levels can lead to a pregnancy with a large baby. If the birth weight is too high, which is beyond 9 pounds/lbs, it can cause birth-related injuries as the child might get stuck in the canal. Hence, it could warrant a C-section where a regular delivery was possible.
  • Preterm delivery: Since the baby has a tendency to grow too large due to gestational diabetes, it might be recommended to deliver the child early, which comes with its own set of complications such as problems with vision, hearing, motor functions, and general health issues.
  • Breathing problems: While it is normal to get a gender blood test owing to the curiosity, it is also important to take care of your health, especially from a blood sugar standpoint. If the latter is left unchecked, high blood sugar levels can create breathing problems for the child in the form of respiratory distress syndrome.
  • Hypoglycemia: While the mother might have high blood sugar levels, the newborn might develop low sugar or hypoglycemia. This can lead to the development of seizures, requiring intravenous glucose doses and timely feeding sessions. 
  • Increased risk of diabetes: The child born to a mother with untreated gestational diabetes can face obesity issues or develop Type 2 diabetes later on in life. 
  • Fatal consequences: In the worst cases, the baby might even be stillborn.

Complications Impacting The Mother

  • Increased blood pressure: Not only can you develop high blood pressure after pregnancy, but you can also develop a condition known as preeclampsia, which can cause major organ damage. Please refer to this article to know more about this condition. 
  • Complications related to C-section: While C-section might be required to deliver the child, it can also cause complications for the mother in the form of infections and extensive scarring.
  • Increased risk of diabetes: Not only is it more likely to develop gestational diabetes in later pregnancies, but you can also get Type 2 diabetes in your advanced years.

Are there any preventive measures for avoiding it?

While there is no certainty that certain measures and actions will stop gestational diabetes, an overall healthy lifestyle will go a long way to reduce potential risks. Here are 4 steps you can take today to keep this condition at bay:

  • Eat whole foods: Try to avoid processed foods as much as possible and stick to whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and lean meats. The goal is to develop a healthy eating habit that will provide numerous dividends down the road. 
  • Exercise: Staying physically active during pregnancy is paramount if you want to avoid gestational diabetes. If you are not into yoga, pilates or forms of strength training, a nice 30-minute walk daily can do the trick. You can even try swimming as it is easier on the joints, which become particularly vulnerable during pregnancy. 
  • Maintain a healthy weight: If you are overweight or obese, try to shed some pounds before conceiving. By following the two points above, you can see significant results in a few months, thereby lowering a major risk factor for gestational diabetes. 
  • Monitor your weight gain: Closely watch your weight gain during pregnancy, and try to keep it within acceptable ranges. This figure might be unique for each individual, so consult your OB/GYN regarding this. 

In Closing

To sum it up, gestational diabetes is a temporary and complicated condition that can spring up on you without warning. However, by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and regularly consulting your doctor, you can take solid measures to reduce the chances of getting it. However, if you do get it, please do not panic, as modern medicine is adept at dealing with almost all the above-mentioned complications. 

To know more about such conditions, or to get a fetal DNA test, reach out to us at Prenatal Genetics Lab. Run by research scientists, we have decades of experience in human DNA diagnostics. Be it a prenatal paternity test or a test to reveal gender, you can get the procedure done with a simple blood test. Affordable and non-invasive, our tests are also highly accurate. To know more about our services, contact us today.

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