Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy and disappears almost immediately after the baby is delivered. As in other forms of diabetes , blood sugar levels are too high, because the woman does not properly metabolize carbohydrates, due either to inadequate insulin or an inability to fully utilize the hormone. The symptoms are often so mild that they may not even be noticed unless her blood sugar is checked periodically. When the mother’s blood sugar levels are too high, the fetus produces extra insulin, which acts like a growth hormone during fetal development. The result is an oversized and sickly baby. Excessive fetal insulin also interferes with potassium metabolism, which can lead to potentially fatal arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats. Gestational diabetes is the most common cause of stillbirths and late fetal death. The disorder also increases the possibility of birth defects. Factors contributing to the risk of gestational diabetes include pregnancy after the age of 35, obesity, and having had an earlier baby larger than nine pounds. Women who themselves weighed more than nine pounds at birth also have an increased incidence of gestational diabetes, which in turn carries a risk of eventually developing either Type I or Type II diabetes.
Diagnostic Studies And Procedures
A doctor can detect gestational diabetes by screening for elevated levels of blood sugar between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy. Medical personnel give the expectant mother a sugar drink and measure her blood sugar level an hour later. If the level is elevated , the doctor will order a three hour glucose tolerance test; the woman consumes 100 grams of oral glucose, after which her blood sugar levels are monitored hourly three times. Most obstetricians recommend that all pregnant women be screened for gestational diabetes. They also advise that those who fall into a high-risk group be tested more often. Such women might, for example, undergo screening in the 12th, 18th, and 32nd weeks of pregnancy.
After a woman has been diagnosed, treatment should begin immediately to normalize blood sugar levels. Proper diet and exercise can often accomplish this, but some women may need to be hospitalized initially to bring the diabetes under control. Once the level of blood glucose has been normalized, it is critical to keep it under control to reduce risks to the fetus. This usually involves careful self monitoring of the glucose levels several times a day, as well as keeping up the diet and exercise regimen. If adjusting the diet and exercise are not enough, the doctor may prescribe one or more daily injections of insulin. The woman will also need to see her obstetrician more often, usually weekly during the last two or three months of pregnancy, to make sure the fetus is continuing to grow normally.
No alternative methods can be used to treat gestational diabetes effectively, but appropriate nutrition and a regular exercise program to maintain ideal weight before becoming pregnant can help to prevent the condition. Also, aspects of these therapies can be adopted into the medical regimen with the obstetrician’s knowledge and approval.
Ginseng tea is believed to reduce blood glucose levels. Other herbs recommended to treat diabetes include dandelion root and uvaursi. However, check with your doctor before taking these, or any other herbal remedies.
Practitioners recommend consuming a diet high in starches and fiber and shunning sugars. Spirulina, a type of warm water algae especially high in protein, is said to help lower the blood sugar.
Self-care is the key to preventing or controlling gestational diabetes and increasing the chances of having a healthy baby. If you are overweight, try to achieve your ideal weight before you conceive. Do not attempt to lose weight during pregnancy; doing so could deprive the fetus of necessary nutrients. If you do develop gestational diabetes, maintaining normal blood glucose levels is critical. This usually requires distributing your food intake over four to six small meals a day and reducing total number of calories. You may have to monitor your blood glucose levels six to eight times a day. Fortunately, you can do this with a simple, electronic blood glucose monitor now available for home use. If you must use insulin, learn to administer these injections yourself, and ask your doctor to help you develop a system for rotating injection sites. As your delivery date nears, your obstetrician may ask you to pay special attention to fetal activity and to report promptly any decrease in the baby’s kicks and other movements.
Other Causes of Abnormal Blood Glucose Tests
Ordinary blood glucose tests fail to detect gestational diabetes when pregnant women fast before seeing their doctors for fear that they are gaining too much weight. This practice temporarily lowers blood glucose levels and masks gestational diabetes.