Diabetes of pregnancy, what all pregnant couples need to know
Diabetes in pregnancy is a temporary phenomenon that needs management. This article explains Gestational Diabetes Mellitus and how to deal with it.
Diabetes is a disorder where it is difficult to maintain normal levels of blood sugar. We all have someone in our family who suffers from it, and the general understanding is that it is a lifestyle disorder. Yet, around 50 lakh women suffer from diabetes of pregnancy in India every year, not all of them from urban households.
What is this diabetes of pregnancy? Would it affect you? What can you do to reduce the chances of it occurring? This article will discuss these questions in detail.
Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM)
Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) is the clinical term for diabetes of pregnancy. India has one of the highest numbers of women suffering from it. According to the International Diabetes Federation, Indian women are more likely to develop GDM than Caucasian women. Contrary to the popular belief, it is not a disorder of the rich. It affects women across economic strata alike.
Why does it happen?
The truth is, nobody knows. At around 24 weeks of pregnancy, about 1 in 10 women would temporarily have an increase in blood sugar levels.
Insulin, a substance produced by the pancreas, is responsible for lowering the blood sugar after we eat and turn it into energy. It is believed that placenta, the organ that supports the nutrition of the growing baby in the uterus also blocks mother`s own insulin. This develops a temporary resistance to insulin, and the mother requires a lot more insulin to regulate her blood sugar than normal. The resistance leads to a state of increased blood glucose.
When is this detected?
The symptoms of diabetes of pregnancy are not different from those of pregnancy. You would be thirsty, fatigued and pass urine frequently.
As a part of the routine prenatal examination, your obstetrician would recommend a Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT). Good news is, this will detect the disorder early if it is there. The bad news is, it would not be able to differentiate if your diabetes is old or due to pregnancy.
Either way, it is good to detect it early to formulate a treatment plan.
Does it affect your baby?
GDM affects the mother after the organs are formed, but while the baby is still growing. So it would not cause any birth defects. However, if not controlled, GDM can cause some harm to the baby.
As your body is unable to reduce the glucose, it crosses the placenta to the baby. In response, the baby produces a lot of insulin and stores all this extra energy into fat. This leads to a heavy baby.
A heavy baby would have a higher chance of injury during birth. The excess insulin leads to a lower glucose level when the baby is born.
He may also have trouble breathing. An excess insulin increases the chances of obesity later.
Read on to find out more about diabetes of pregnancy
Would it recur?
It is observed that it recurs in 2 out of three subsequent pregnancies. Also, the chances of you developing diabetes later in life are about 20%.
Can something be done?
All this may sound grim, but the good news is that it can be detected early, and it is not permanent.
The goal of treatment would be to control your blood sugar. You will have to modify your diet and take insulin shots.
A more traditional Indian meal low in fats and salt is preferred over western ones. This leads to a good control over the circulating sugar.
In addition, you may want to shed some excess fat before you get pregnant. Obesity increases the chances of GDM. Stay away from the bad cravings during pregnancy. And most important of all, get your glucose level tested in the late second trimester even if your doctor forgets to recommend it.
If your glucose levels turn out to be high, get help and follow the instructions of your doctor properly. It is something that can be controlled and should not end up being a cause of worry. Like my professor once said, if it is there, better know about it earlier than later.
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