Gestational diabetes as the name suggests is a condition where pregnant women have high glucose levels. Generally, an asymptomatic condition, gestational diabetes is normally diagnosed during a routine screening through a glucose tolerance blood test. Around 10-20% of pregnant women in India are affected by this condition that usually goes away post child birth. However, it may increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is however different from a regular adult diabetes. “The blood sugar threshold used to define it as well as treat it are much lower than that of normal adult diabetes as treatment in GDM is mainly targeted at baby’s well being unlike adult diabetes where glucose targets are decided based on long term health outcomes such as heart, eyes, nerves, and kidneys,” says Dr. Srinivasa Munigoti D, Consultant Endocrinologist, Fortis Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore.
So does gestational diabetes occur in those who eat a lot of sugary food or will it affect your chances of a normal delivery? Dr. Srinivasa Munigoti D on some truths and myths about the condition.
Treatments with tablets or insulin could be harmful during pregnancy
Traditional blood sugar control during pregnancy relies on insulin, which is the gold standard, the most effective and reliable treatment of hyperglycemia (high sugar levels) during pregnancy, keeping the baby safe. Syringes, pen-style insulin dispensers, and insulin pumps can all be used to administer the drug insulin.
However, increasingly recent studies suggest that oral hypoglycemic medications like metformin are safe and acceptable alternatives possessing no serious safety concerns, leading to the birth of perfectly healthy babies.
Pregnant ladies need to monitor sugar levels daily
Once diagnosed with GDM, ideally, pregnant women need to self-monitor their blood glucose levels throughout their pregnancy, all through the day to make sure they are within the limits as advised by the doctor. This can be done with the help of a finger pricker designed to check sugar levels at home through a drop of blood.
GDM occurs in those who eat a lot of sugars
Eating sugary foods will not increase your risk of getting gestational diabetes. When you eat, the body converts carbohydrates into glucose, which is sugar for absorption into the bloodstream thus providing energy to the body. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, which aids in the movement of sugar into cells and the reduction of blood sugar levels.
During pregnancy, the placenta (the organ that feeds and oxygenates your baby) releases hormones that aid in the growth of the baby but increases insulin resistance and therefore creating need for increased insulin production. The pancreas must produce three times the usual insulin to maintain sugar levels and in case where that doesn’t happen, gestational diabetes develops. The presence of family history, obesity and increasing maternal age at the time of conception are some of the important reasons for this high prevalence.
Diabetes causes excessive growth of the baby
Diabetic mothers’ babies are frequently larger than average as the blood glucose is passed directly to the baby. With mother’s higher blood glucose levels, the baby produces additional insulin to compensate. This, in turn, can lead to birth complications. But by following doctor’s advice carefully and by maintaining good sugar control – one can certainly minimize excessive growth of the baby and its related complications.
GDM means delivery through Caesarean
The majority of women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes will have a healthy pregnancy, and normal vaginal delivery. In some cases, Cesarean section may be required due to a number of reasons that your obstetrician would help you explain and plan accordingly.