Diabetes during Pregnancy

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) also known as Gestational Diabetes, is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. This condition happens when the body cannot produce enough insulin to manage the effects of a growing baby and changing hormons levels. Insulin helps the body to control the level of glucose (sugar) in blood. Sometimes though, the body cannot produce enough insulin, so the blood glucose levels will rise.

According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) 20.9 million or 16.2% of live births to women in 2015 had some form of hyperglycaemia in pregnancy. An estimated 85.1% were due to gestational diabetes, 7.4% due to other types of diabetes first detected in pregnancy and 7.5% due to diabetes detected prior to pregnancy. Further, one in seven births is affected by gestational diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus depends on the risk factor of each women. There are some cases, which increase the risk for gestational diabetes such as being older than 35 years old, belonging to a high risk-group e.g. Aboriginal, Hispanic, South Asian, Asian or African, being obese or have given birth to a baby that weighted more than four kilograms (nine pounds). Further, the following conditions increase the risk of developing gestational diabetes: The use of corticosteroid medication, having prediabetes, gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, a sister or brother with type II diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or darkened patches of skin (acanthosis nigricans)

It is important to mention that it is highly recommended to have a prenatal screening done around the 28. week of pregnancy to find out if gestational diabetes has appeared. This test is crucial because if left undiagnosed or untreated, gestational diabetes can lead to high blood glucose levels. This means that there is a risk that the baby will weight more than 4 kg. and will have a difficult delivery. Further, gestational diabetes can also increase the risk of your baby becoming overweight and developing type II diabetes when he grows up. It is important to mention that if the mother develops gestational diabetes, the baby won't be born with diabetes and this condition can be successfully treated during pregnancy. Further, it is important to consider the fact that after the baby is born, blood glucose levels will usually return to normal but also, the mother is at greater risk of developing gestational diabetes in the next pregnancy and of developing type II diabetes in the future.

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus – What to do?

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus can be kept under control by:

  • Choosing a healthy diet: A balanced mix of fruits and vegetables; legumes, cereals, bread and tubers; milk products; and fish, eggs and low fat meat will help the body to manage the blood glucose levels and provide the best nutrition for mother and baby. Besides, it will help to keep the weight under control.

  • Regular exercise: Besides regulating the blood glucose levels, exercise can also help to: boost the body's energy, sleep better, reduce stress, reduce pregnancy discomfort, prepare the body for birth, lose weight in a quicker way after birth.

  • Regular control of blood glucose at home: The use of a blood glucose meter at home easily helps to measure the blood glucose level in order to know if insulin intake is needed. If so, it is highly recommended to ask the healthcare provider for advise. In these cases, the use of insulin injections during pregnancy may be recommended.