Gestational diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar levels first recognized during pregnancy in otherwise non-diabetic women. Normally the disease appears around 24th week of pregnancy. Since the disease doesn’t show any significant symptoms, it remains undiagnosed in a large percentage of women in India - thus adding to a huge load of diabetics every year.
What causes Gestational Diabetes?
GD represents chronic β cell dysfunction of pancreas (gland that secretes insulin which metabolizes sugar in our blood). Almost all pregnant women exhibit some degree of impaired glucose metabolism under the influence of placental hormones, but extra insulin is secreted in response, to maintain the sugar balance. However, in some pregnancies insulin action is blocked, or cells develop resistance to process sugars into energy, thus raising sugar levels in blood.
Complications of Gestational Diabetes
Diabetes can affect the developing fetus throughout the pregnancy. In early pregnancy, mother’s diabetes can cause birth defects (skeletal, brain, heart) and miscarriages.
During the second and third trimester, as the blood with high sugar levels enters the foetal circulation, the foetal pancreas secrete extra insulin to process the excessive glucose and store it as fat. Thus, making large for date babies or Macrosomia, a grave complication of GD. Having a large baby increases risks during birthing for both mother and also the child. For example:
- Large babies often require C-section delivery, and if delivered vaginally, there is increased risk of injury to perineum and excessive bleeding
- Damage to the shoulders of baby during birth
- Low sugar levels (hypoglycemia) at birth due to extra insulin produced by baby’s pancreas - which can be fatal if delivery is not well attended at hospital
- Higher risk of breathing problems at birth, and its associated complications
- High risk of obesity as these babies grow
- Very high risk for type-2 diabetes as adults.
Learn more about how Gestational Diabetes is detected and treated.
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