Finding out that you need to be tested for a type of diabetes can be worrying, especially when you are pregnant. Here we explain why gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy, who is most at risk and how you can be tested for it.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is classified as high blood sugar level, which occurs during pregnancy and which disappears after giving birth.
Hormone and Insulin Changes During Pregnancy
Due to the growing demands of your baby in the second and third trimester of pregnancy, your body’s demands for insulin increase – this is triggered by hormones in the placenta.
Insulin is required to transfer the sugar from your blood into useable fuel in your cells (e.g. in your muscles). If your body is unable to make the amount of insulin needed, the sugars will remain in the blood, causing high blood sugar levels, thus classified as gestational diabetes.
Your Risk of Gestational Diabetes
All women are at risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy, however the following factors put you at higher risk than most and would therefore qualify you to take the Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT).
· Ethnicity: Black, African-Caribbean, South Asian, Middle Eastern
· You have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 +
· You have previously had gestational diabetes
· You have previously had a baby weighing more than 10lb (4.5kg) at birth
· You have Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
· One of your parents or siblings has diabetes
3-5% which is about 1 in every 20 women will develop gestational diabetes.
Do You Have Gestational Diabetes?
The GTT is the screening they do to see if you have gestational diabetes. This is usually performed between 24 and 28 weeks. Although you can develop gestational diabetes at any stage during your pregnancy, it is more common during the second and third trimester.
If you present as someone at very high risk, then you may be offered screening as early as 16 weeks, however for most cases, screening at this early stage would be of little benefit.
There are some signs and symptoms which could indicate gestational diabetes, but most of them are common symptoms you can experience during pregnancy anyway, so having them doesn’t necessarily mean you have gestational diabetes.
If your blood sugar levels are particularly high, you may experience some of the following symptoms…
Symptoms Which Could Indicate Gestational Diabetes:
· Overweight (BMI over 30)
· Frequent thirst and hunger
· Frequent urination
· Feeling hungry, even after a meal
· Dry mouth
Associated Risk to You and Your Baby
There are some potentially serious risks to you and your baby if you develop gestational diabetes, which is why it is important to be tested if you fall under the criteria which puts you at risk of developing it during your pregnancy.
Risks Associated with Gestational Diabetes:
· Premature birth
· Large baby (over 9lb), which can easily become stuck in the birth canal
· More risk of birth injuries to the baby if they are large and become wedged during delivery
· More painful birth for the mother and thus more stressful for the baby
· Higher chance of needing an emergency c-section (if baby becomes stuck or distressed)
· Baby may be born with low blood sugar levels
· Higher risk of the mother developing Type 2 diabetes later in life
If gestational diabetes is detected early and is well managed, the associated risks can be significantly reduced.
How to Prevent Gestational Diabetes
Whilst there are some unavoidable factors which give rise to having a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes, such as genetics and ethnicity, there are some steps you can take to try to prevent yourself developing diabetes during pregnancy.
· Regular exercise
· Healthy eating
· Not over eating – smaller more frequent meals are easier for your body to digest than big heavy meals.
· Stop smoking
· Have plenty of sleep and rest
If you think you fall into the criteria for being screened for gestational diabetes, but have not been booked for a test during your first midwife appointment, contact them to let them know and ensure you don’t miss the testing window between 24 – 28 weeks.
Look after yourselves,
The Bamboo Baby Company