Gestational diabetes is one of the most common health complications associated with pregnancy. Though often a temporary condition that resolves after the delivery of the baby, it can have long-term health implications as women who have gestational diabetes have a 40 per cent increased chance of developing diabetes in later life.
Are you worried about gestational diabetes? We asked Dr Joseph Iskaros, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at The Portland Hospital, what he knows about the condition:
What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. It is caused by resistance to insulin (a hormone that controls blood glucose) due to hormones secreted by the placenta.
How will I know if I have gestational diabetes?
A glucose tolerance test is used to detect gestational diabetes. During this test your blood sugar levels will be recorded after a period of fasting and then again 2 hours after you have consumed 75gm glucose drink.
This glucose tolerance test is not offered to everyone but if you have any of the following risk factors it will be offered between 24 and 28 weeks of your pregnancy:
- If you are overweight or have a body mass index greater than 30kg per square metre of your height
- If you have had previously had a baby weighing more than 4.5kg
- If your origin of ethnicity is from South East Asia or the Middle East
- If you have a parent or sibling with Type 2 Diabetes
- If your baby’s ultrasound scan shows that they will have a large birth weight and have more fluid around them
How will having gestational diabetes affect me?
Women who have gestational diabetes may complain of tiredness, thirst or repeated urinary tract infections.
How will having gestational diabetes affect the baby?
If your blood sugar is high it can increase insulin production in the baby. This could cause the baby to have a larger birth weight and to be more prone to jaundice.
Increased insulin production in the baby can also cause your child to have a condition called hypoglycaemia. This is when the baby has low blood sugar levels after their delivery. If this is the case, early and frequent feeds are advised to help stabilise the blood sugar levels.
How can I reduce my risk of gestational diabetes?
Gradually reducing your sugar consumption and eating a balanced diet can help your body manage your glucose levels.
Gentle physical activity can also help to lower blood glucose levels and may further help to reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes.
How will gestational diabetes be managed during labour and delivery?
Women with gestational diabetes are at greater risk of having a baby with a higher birth weight and for this reason it might be advisable to start labour by 39-40 weeks to minimise the risk of labour complications.
During the course of your labour your blood sugars will be checked regularly and if you are on insulin you might be given an insulin, glucose or potassium drip during labour to help control your blood sugars.
How will gestational diabetes be managed after labour and delivery?
After the delivery of the baby all treatment is stopped. However, due to your increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, you are encouraged to maintain a healthy lifestyle and are advised to check your fasting blood sugar with your GP 6 weeks after delivery and, if normal, every year thereafter.
Where can I go for further help and advice?
If you are worried about gestational diabetes, then leading Consultant Obstetricians and Gynaecologists like Dr Joseph Iskaros at The Portland Hospital are available to help. Call us on 020 7580 4400.