Gestational Diabetes: Its Effects on the Baby and the Mother- What We Must Know and How to be Careful?

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gestational diabetes and its effects on mother and babies

Gestational Diabetes is a special case of diabetes, where the mother has high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Sounds intimidating, doesn’t it?

Well, this article will bring to limelight all you need to know about Gestational diabetes, its effects on the mother and the baby and how you can sidestep it while being precautious. Here’s an account of what we will be discussing shortly in this article:

Table of Content

QUICKIES ( Brief Explanation)

When briskly framed, Gestational diabetes happens only during pregnancy. There is no need to panic when one encounters such a condition because, with due care, one can deliver a healthy baby after consulting the right doctor on time.

But hey, why do we need to know about this third type of diabetes, what causes, and consequences are we dealing with here and does the baby ever get affected in the womb?

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Quickly read ahead in the following subsections to get your answers in detail.

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INSIGHT- Getting deeper into it!

Let’s learn about this event right from ABCs. If a woman never had diabetes before pregnancy, but during pregnancy, she develops a high blood sugar level– you call it gestational diabetes!

Gestational diabetes is a condition which makes pregnancy a difficult one, you need to be always careful with the food you eat and the calories you take in, for you must maintain certain levels of blood sugar. Higher blood sugar levels may have fatal effects on the unborn as well as the mother to be.

You need be in constant touch of your doctor team/ medical team and you need to keep it under surveillance and keep on going in and out for tests and some prescribed drug doses- depending upon your condition.

A Caesarean section may be required in the extreme cases while other times, the risk of pre-eclampsia may be high. Babies could be born large which could again increase the risk of the baby getting stuck in the birth canal during delivery, leading to injured nerves in the neck and shoulders. They are at the risk of having low blood sugar after birth or even jaundice. Untreated cases on the table could result in stillbirths. It gets worse: Children are susceptible to type 2 diabetes as well!

Affecting 3-9% of the pregnancies according to a study, this condition is prevalent during the last three months of pregnancy. In four out of five cases, the patient gets rid of gestational diabetes right after pregnancy. However, managing your blood sugar or in other words, blood glucose is very crucial.

Delve into the next subsection to know what blood sugar is?

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SYMPTOMS AND DIAGNOSIS

gestational diabetes symptoms

Having an eye out for what disorder you may or may not have is as important as ensuring if you are inside or outside the tiger’s cage. Besides, you need to make sure if you really must be careful before you know how to be careful. Symptoms play along with these lines.
Don’t your loved ones keep stressing on the fact that regular checkups are absolutely necessary for a healthy life?

Screening tests are instrumental in determining whether pregnant women have gestational diabetes or not. Over the course of pregnancy, if one has gestational diabetes, thirst, hunger, and the regular after-effects of thirst, an increased urinary frequency is common.

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But here’s the kicker, these can be mistaken with the typical side effects of pregnancy. The below conditions usually attract doctor’s attention in case of gestational diabetes:

  • Blurred vision
  • Tingling or numb hands or feet
  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Sores that heal slowly
  • Excessive fatigue

Thus, pregnant women must be screened for gestational diabetes during their pregnancy. It is recommended to carry out the tests between the 24th and the 28th weeks of pregnancy. First, tests are conducted to see how well your body manages blood sugar. You’ll be asked to take a sugary drink after which a series of time blood tests are done. In the second trimester, the screening test shows possible signs of gestational diabetes. Finally, glucose tolerance tests confirm the result of abnormal screening tests, i.e., gestational diabetes.

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RISK FACTORS OF DEVELOPING GD

gestational diabetes risk factors

    • Prediabetes (susceptible to diabetes but not diabetes)
    • High blood pressure
    • A history of gestational diabetes
    • A family history of type 2 diabetes
    • Hormone disorders like PCOS
    • Overweight during pregnancy
    • Older than 25 years of age
    • Had given birth to a baby weighing at least 9 lbs or had a birth defect
    • Had unexplained stillbirth or miscarriage before

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EFFECTS OF GESTATIONAL DIABETES:

EFFECTS ON THE MOTHER

gestational diabetes effects on mother

If gestational diabetes is diagnosed to be present in the earlier stages of pregnancy itself, there are higher chances of birth defects or miscarriage compared to pregnant women without diabetes. First timers with gestational diabetes must monitor blood sugar levels habitually throughout pregnancy.

Short-term effects:

  • 30% more likely to experience preterm birth
  • 40% more likely to require a C-section
  • 70% more likely to have preeclampsia
  • A dangerous spike in blood pressure

Pre-eclampsia during pregnancy causes a very high blood pressure and protein in the urine. While the development of placenta takes place, pre-eclampsia is a possible outcome along with gestational diabetes. In severe cases, this can also lead to eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia may have other effects on a gestational diabetic patient like swelling in legs or water retention, but these are hard to differentiate from a normal pregnant woman.

Eclampsia is a condition where multiple convulsions in a pregnant woman with high BP are followed by a coma. This can jeopardize the life of the mother and the baby as well.

Long-term effects:

  • Gestational diabetes normally ceases after delivery
  • Pregnant are at an increased risk of adult type II diabetes mellitus after delivery
  • Maternal obesity
  • Higher risk of having it again in a next pregnancy

Here’s the deal, how to play a little safe:

consider twice what you eat, how much you eat, and how often you eat to prevent weight gain and chronic hyperglycemia. With proper care and medical administration, the patient can have multiple healthy deliveries safely. Note that special care must be taken to manage the effects of gestational diabetes till a healthy delivery.

CAUSES: REASON BEHIND THE EFFECTS

  • Technically speaking, during pregnancy, the placenta is responsible for building hormones that pave way for that extra dose of glucose in gestational diabetic patient.
  • Usually, pancreas saves the day but if it’s unable to negotiate the blood sugar levels, this ailment called gestational diabetes reigns.
  • Gestational diabetes, in other words, is a result of constant competition between the mother and the baby for energy/resources. This is crazy!

Did you know that the main negotiator of gestational diabetes is Human Placental Lactogen (HPL)? It is produced tremendously by syncytiotrophoblast of placenta. It causes insulin resistance and liberates free fatty acids and ketones from the maternal fatty tissue (maternal lipolysis). Due to insulin resistance, maternal glucose upsurges and diabetes gestational advances.

The extra sugar, fat and ketones are shifted from the mother to the foetus. The foetus slurps plenty of energy and nutrients to keep developing, even if the mother starves. When the mother tries to satisfy her hunger and becomes well-nourished, the foetus then again tends to grow too big.

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EFFECTS ON THE BABY

gestational diabetes effects on baby

The brunt of this disease may or may not affect your baby depending on your intention to fight what’s coming your way. If you choose to hop over the warnings, elevated blood sugar levels can land way too much of glucose in your baby’s blood. Consequently, to process the excess sugar, the baby’s pancreas is under pressure of secreting more insulin.

Short-term effects:

  • Did you know that GD can interfere with the infant’s brain development and behavior as well? Epidemiological, clinical and experimental studies support this fact.
  • It has been proved that one-year-old babies possess impaired performance in explicit memory tasks and in an 18-month-old baby of diabetic mothers have a slower development of reasoning and language skills compared to the progenies of healthy subjects.
  • These cognitive pitfalls are reversible, as older children from diabetic mothers have normal performance in different memory tasks.

Long-term effects:

  • Excess insulin or blood sugar equals a big baby or macrosomia, which causes a domino effect of letting in other problematic situations.
  • After the delivery, the risks of the baby developing hypoglycemia or breathing problems increase.
  • Moreover, the infant is vulnerable to another jeopardy synonymous to jaundice.
  • In most cases, the baby dies before or following the birth. It’s a well-known fact that the baby is prone to type 2 diabetes or obesity after birth.
  • Obesity is also a common consequence of GD.
  • Impaired insulin sensitivity

There is only one way out of this menace: proper care to go on and deliver healthy babies.

How? Stay tuned!

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PRECAUTIONS: BEING CAREFUL

gestational diabetes precautions

How to reduce the risk of diabetes:

  • Maintain a healthy diet: Eat high fiber and low-fat foods with an emphasis on vegetables and whole grains. Dodge white foods like sugar, flour, pasta, and potatoes. These can spike your blood sugar.
  • Maintain a healthy weight (For pregnant women, BMI>27) and lose weight prior to pregnancy
  • Reduce Alcohol consumption
  • Regular exercise, be physically active
  • Stop smoking
  • Regularly check blood glucose levels and consult a doctor if your risk factors are high

In spite of all the precautions, if you’ve still fallen a prey to Gestational diabetes, here’s how you can get yourself treated!

  • Consult a doctor
  • Take your medicines regularly
  • Follow a healthy exercise routine
  • Do not compromise on your diet
  • Take in insulin supplies in case of higher blood sugar levels

Once you consult a doctor, what’s expected is a customized meal plan, emphasizing the words “exercise daily”. Some doctors also recommend daily blood glucose testing, diabetes medication or insulin injections to help control your diabetes.

Treating your gestational diabetes can lower the risk of a painful C section birth, essential for large babies. By means of a healthy diet, you can deliver a healthy baby. But there’s always a risk of low blood sugar from gestational diabetes. Get your blood glucose checked right after delivery. If these levels are out of range, you probably need to monitor your baby carefully.

  • Breastfeed your baby right after birth to correct hypoglycemia
  • In severe cases, feed the baby with IV glucose solution
  • If the baby is still weak, admit her to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) after birth

Congratulations if your baby is doing well! But even so, regular blood tests are necessary till the blood sugar levels are back to normal.

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LIVING WITH GESTATIONAL DIABETES FOR THOSE MONTHS

living with gestational diabetes
Diet is the spine of treating G diabetes. Suppress the fat intake and consume complex carbohydrates instead of refined carbohydrates. That’s how you can achieve and maintain the blood glucose profile during gestation. But you’re probably wondering:

“Why doesn’t pharmacologic therapy do any good?”

Medicines do control the amount of sugar in your blood. Anti-diabetic medications may be recommended by doctors along with sufficient doses of insulin. However, positive G diabetes reflect a need to emphasize on vegetables and following a meal plan that’s high in fiber and low in fat.

Monitoring you blood sugar level becomes a routine for GD patients. Your doctor will probably let you know about average blood sugar levels. Here are some general recommendations:

Average blood sugar levels:

  • < 95 mg/dL before eating
  • < 140 mg/dL one hour after eating
  • < 120 mg/dL two hours after eating

At night, the hormones that are released can raise the mother’s fasting blood sugar. So, you can either consume snacks before sleeping or manage the carbs during breakfast in the morning. This could mean limiting fruits in the morning. However, count on your doctor and his advice to sketch the best meal plan.

Pregnant women can also take prenatal multivitamins, iron supplements, or calcium supplements that can help the baby develop normally. women with gestational diabetes require two to three servings of protein each day. Though carbohydrates raise blood sugar, they are the main source of energy and monitoring carbs is thus essential. Cut down on fats and thus, calories, if weight gain is something you fear during pregnancy, though fats don’t really raise blood sugar levels.

Alternative ways to help regulate blood sugar include:

  • avoid consuming too many carbohydrates at a time
  • consume complex carbohydrates that are high in fiber
  • consume carbohydrates with protein or healthy fat
  • never skip meals
  • have a breakfast rich in proteins and fibrous carbohydrates

Most diabetic patients complain if they must give up on their treats or favorite foods. Yes, you need to be conscious of what you eat and how much you eat. You can enjoy a treat but perhaps not as much as you used to before.

Avoid sugary food like:

  • cakes
  • puddings
  • biscuits
  • sweets
  • soda

Avoid starchy food like:

  • white rice
  • white potatoes
  • white bread
  • white pasta

Avoid hidden sugars and carbohydrates like:

    • highly-processed foods
    • seasonings, such as dressings and ketchup
    • fast food
    • alcohol

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CONCLUSION

An interesting fact about Gestational diabetes is that it goes away after the placenta is delivered. A mere 5-10% of pregnant women have problems after the delivery. They are diagnosed with type II diabetes, having said that, a healthy diet is a key to every hurdle that comes with gestational diabetes. G diabetes sure is a dangerous type to deal with as the disorders in the baby can range from respiratory problems to birth defects or even death!
What’s the bottom line? Make a healthy diet an essential part of your must-do list and deliver a healthier and a happier baby.

Now that you know how Gestational diabetes can affect a mother, its effects on the baby and some decent precautions, you might want to share this indispensable information with others. Thanks for checking out the detailed account on Gestational diabetes! Stay tuned!

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