Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs when women develop high blood glucose levels during pregnancy. A woman who suffers from gestational diabetes usually does not suffer from any form of diabetes before pregnancy. This condition is usually detected and diagnosed between the 24th-28th week of pregnancy. When a woman is diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it does not mean she will have type 2 diabetes after pregnancy but it significantly increases her risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. If not managed properly, it can increase the risk of complications for both mother and child during pregnancy and delivery.

Are there symptoms of gestational diabetes?

No. women who suffer from gestational diabetes do not experience any symptoms and high glucose levels are normally detected during antenatal routine checks, which emphasizes the importance of these checks. If symptoms are experienced, they may include: fatigue, increased thirst, blurred vision, snoring and the excessive need to urinate

What causes gestational diabetes?

The cause of gestational diabetes is unknown. However, it is hypothesized that pregnancy hormones play a role. The high amounts of hormones released during pregnancy make the body resistant to insulin – the hormone responsible for the regulation of blood glucose.  However, this does not happen in all pregnancies, so what increases the risk of developing gestational diabetes?

Risk factors of gestational diabetes

A woman is more likely to develop gestational diabetes if,

  • She is over the age of 35
  • Has high blood pressure, was overweight before pregnancy or gains more weight than normal during pregnancy
  • Expecting multiple babies or previously gave birth to a baby more than 4kgs
  • Has a family history of diabetes
  • Has a diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or other conditions relating to insulin resistance.

 How is gestational diabetes treated?

Treatment options are dependent on blood glucose levels. In some cases, a change in diet is all that is required to treat gestational diabetes and in other cases, women may need insulin or other medication. However, it is estimated that only 10-20% of women with gestational diabetes need insulin to control high blood glucose levels.

Yet in all cases, a balanced diet is critical in managing any type of diabetes. It is important to avoid a high sugar, high fat diet and consume more healthy carbs, protein and unsaturated fats.

When a woman who has previously had gestational diabetes intends to or gets pregnant, she should inform her doctor for adequate action and monitoring.

Complications of gestational diabetes

In women who suffer from gestational diabetes, potential complications include a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, having a cesarean section and preeclampsia: a dangerous condition in pregnant women characterized by high blood pressure, excess protein in the urine and swelling in the feet. For babies whose mothers are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it may cause them to grow really big, have breathing difficulties, cause blood sugar issues, have increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes or even death. However, women with this condition can still have a healthy baby if the condition is properly managed.

Can gestational diabetes be prevented?

It is not totally possible to prevent gestational diabetes. However, adopting a healthy lifestyle reduces the risk of developing this condition.

Pregnancy if you already have diabetes

It is important necessary for those with a pre-existing diabetes diagnosis to speak to their doctor when intending to get pregnant. it is important to get blood glucose levels to a target range. High blood glucose levels can harm a baby even before you know you are pregnant.


Understanding Diabetes, 2006

National Institutes of Health, 2021

CDC, 2020

Mayo Clinic, 2020

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