Diabetes Mellitus is a condition when the pancreas (the organ responsible for producing insulin) is either unable to make insulin, or the insulin is unable to work effectively. The function of insulin is to keep the glucose levels within normal limits. With inadequate insulin, glucose builds up in the blood leading to high blood glucose levels, causing health problems.
The definite cause of gestational diabetes is not known, but it is assumed that as pregnancy progresses, the mothers energy needs increase. Also, placental hormones that help the baby grow and develop, block the action of the mothers insulin. This is called insulin resistance. The pregnant woman needs extra insulin so the glucose can move from the blood into the cells where it is used for energy. If the body is unable to meet this requirement, diabetes develops. When the pregnancy is over and the insulin needs return to normal, the diabetes usually disappears.
Women who develop gestational diabetes have a greater risk of developing type II diabetes later on.
Although gestational diabetes usually goes away after birth (when hormone levels return to normal), it still needs to be taken seriously.
When gestational diabetes is well controlled, these risks are greatly reduced.
Pregnant women are routinely checked for gestational diabetes between the 24th and 28th weeks of their pregnancy. Women at increased risk are usually tested earlier. The glucose challenge test involves taking a glucose drink, waiting for one hour and then having a blood test. If your glucose levels seem high, you will have a glucose tolerance test to confirm the diagnosis. This involves fasting from the night before the test, drinking a stronger glucose solution, and taking a blood tested two hours later.
A woman with gestational diabetes needs careful monitoring for the remainder of her pregnancy.
Management is mainly aimed at changing to a healthy eating plan, physical activity and monitoring blood glucose levels. Specific management strategies include: