Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Basics: What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is when your body has high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. It usually appears, if it's going to, during the second trimester, or early in the third.

The numbers vary, but overall, between 2-4% of pregnant women get diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Women who are older and have a history of diabetes in their family are at greater risk, and overweight women are far more likely than others to be at risk as well.

If you had gestational diabetes in your first pregnancy, it's a good bet you're at risk again.

Gestational diabetes can have serious effects on both the mother and baby. Although it can be an ongoing condition, around 90% of women see their symptoms clear up after birth.

During pregnancy, your body produces hormones (in the placenta) that disrupt the natural insulin levels in your body. This can lead to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and type 2 diabetes.

To ease your worries, go get tested. Health authorities in many areas, and most doctors now advise mandatory testing anywhere between 24 and 28 weeks of your pregnancy.

Women who experience more fatigue than normal, extreme thirst and frequent trips to the washroom (lots of bathroom trips and tiredness is normal, but only to a point!) should ask their doctor to get tested immediately.

Untreated gestational diabetes can lead to serious complications for the mother and the baby.

For example, you've got a greater risk of infection, mothers may have an excess of amniotic fluid, which can lead to premature birth, and you may need a C-section to deal with an overweight baby.

Children can be much larger than normal and can suffer from low calcium levels. They'll be more prone to obesity later in life. They can be hypoglycemic when they're first born, and they're more likely to suffer from jaundice if they were born early. There's also a greater risk of respiratory complications.

It's important to test for and treat gestational diabetes early.

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