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Understanding Gestational Diabetes

Chief Editor | Published on January 27, 2023

Gestational diabetes is more common than we think — during pregnancy, about 2% to 5% of mums develop this condition where the body fails to produce enough insulin to break down glucose, resulting in an elevated level of blood sugar. It can occur at any stage of pregnancy but usually happens in the second half.

Who Is At Risk?

If you have one or more of the following risk factors, you may be at risk of gestational diabetes:

  • over 35 years of age
  • overweight (with a BMI of 30 or above)
  • excessive weight gain
  • family history of diabetes
  • gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • big baby (over 4 kilograms) in a previous pregnancy
  • hypertension or pre-eclampsia

What Are The Symptoms?

Most women have no symptoms and when a pregnant woman sees related signs, her diabetes may be serious. Symptoms of elevated blood sugar level include an increased thirst and a dry mouth, accompanied by tiredness and a frequent urge to urinate.

How Can I Be Diagnosed?

If you have risk factors, your doctor will recommend you take an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) at around Weeks 24 to 28. You’ll need to fast the night before visiting your obstetrician for the test. Three blood samples will be taken: one before you have anything to eat or drink, and another 1 and 2 hours after you’ve taken a glucose solution. Top tip: don’t gulp the solution in one go; sip it slowly with a few small sips.

What Are The Health Risks?

If you have gestational diabetes, your baby will not be born with diabetes but their chance of becoming overweight or developing diabetes later in life is higher. If your condition isn’t managed properly, your child may weigh more than 4 kilograms during birth, which can result in a Caesarean delivery for you. You may also be more likely to develop pre-eclampsia or a urinary tract infection.

Most cases of gestational diabetes go away once the baby is born. For affected mums, however, the chance of developing the same condition in a future pregnancy and the likelihood of type 2 diabetes will be higher.

I Have Gestational Diabetes. What Now?

Many women who have gestational diabetes are able to give birth to healthy babies. The key to managing this disease is controlling your blood sugar level by limiting sugar intake, exercising and, if necessary, taking medication. Since this is a pregnancy complication, it is likely that you may need to see the doctor more often than other mums-to-be. Your doctor will monitor you closely and may suggest a meal plan to help you regulate your blood sugar.

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