Gestational Diabetes is a temporary type of diabetes that occurs in some women when they are pregnant. When it is found to exist, it is usually diagnosed around weeks 26 to 28, of their pregnancy, often when the mother-to-be is routinely screened for the condition. However, screening may take place much earlier if the mother is known to be at a higher level of risk. This would include such various reasons as having a family history of diabetes, having previously given birth to a much overweight child, or being obese, or even being over 35 years of age, often the case in recent years where women have chosen to work longer before wishing to yield to their ticking biological clock.
Early diagnosis of gestational diabetes is important
It is important that the presence of gestational diabetes is recognized early so that appropriate treatment is provided to avoid the complications that can otherwise occur. Diabetes is a disease in which higher than normal blood glucose levels circulate in the body and because of that the growing baby may receive higher than normal amounts of glucose that results in the baby becoming overweight in the womb and growing too large, leading the necessity of delivery by Caesarian section. And there are other possible complications during and after the pregnancy, for both mother and child.
But when identified early, the healthcare practitioners taking care of the mother are well skilled and know what to do to prevent complications and that will enable a successful pregnancy and a happy outcome for baby and mother. And the good news is that the gestational diabetes normally disappears when the baby arrives.
Gestational diabetes, the cause
The cause of gestational diabetes is not really known for sure, but it is thought that hormones produced in the placenta may interfere with the normal process in which the body's cells absorb the glucose in the bloodstream. The placenta is the temporary organ that transfers nutrients to the fetus from the mother. Glucose is an essential source of fuel for the body's cells. There are also some instances in which a woman, newly pregnant, may already be diabetic, either with type-1 or type-2 diabetes, such pregnancies may require special supervision but again, the medical procedures are well established for these special cases.
The treatment: usually diet modification, exercise, medication if necessary
As in most forms of diabetes, treatment requires the mother to follow an appropriate diabetic diet that provides the necessary nutrients and calories but without too many rich and sugary food items. A dietitian can compile a list of suitable foods that meet the tastes and preferences of the mother-to-be and will suggest the timing and spacing of mealtimes and snack times. People with diabetes are encouraged to eat more meals of smaller size rather than the more common three hearty meals per day -- and meals can possibly be interspersed with snacks. The objective is to maintain more balanced levels of blood glucose throughout the day and avoid the high peaks in glucose levels that can follow a larger meal. The other principle of a diabetic food plan is to include foods in each meal that provide the right ratios of the primary nutrients, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Moderate regular exercise
Other than special exercises to aid childbirth, a regular moderate exercise routine can also help control blood glucose levels. Exercised muscles require extra glucose.
Medications to treat gestational diabetes may not be necessary and although there are a number of effective and well proven prescription drugs, in the form of pills, available and used by type-2 diabetics, they are not recommended for use during pregnancy because of the possible effects they may have on the baby.
So if medication is deemed necessary, it would probably be in the form of insulin by injection. That may not sound very nice, but in reality it is not unpleasant â and there is a type of diabetes that usually starts in childhood, called type-1 diabetes, in which the diabetic injects insulin every day of their lives, so like the children, mothers-to-be who have to use insulin soon adapt and understand because it is for the protection of their baby â and it is only for a short time because the gestational diabetes ends when the baby is born.
Daily monitoring of blood glucose levels
With the aid of a small hand-held measuring device, self-administered blood glucose tests can be taken periodically by a diabetic person. Readings are usually taken in the morning after rising from bed, before breakfast or eating any food. They are then often taken two hours after a meal to see whether they have returned to a close to a normal blood sugar level after the glucose effects of the meal have dissipated
In the United States the blood glucose is measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), in most other countries of the world they are measured in millimols per liter (mmol/L).
Using those units of measure, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearing House, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the target blood sugars for most pregnant women when testing are:
1. On awakening before eating, also referred to as "fasting blood glucose": Not above 95 mg/dL (5.27 mmol/L)
2. One hour after a meal: Not above 140 mg/dL (7.7 mmol/L)
3. Two hours after a meal: Not above 120 mg/dL (6.7 mmol/L)
Earlier this year, 2010, the News Center of Chicago's Northwestern University published a brief report titled Gestational Diabetes on the Rise that summarized the findings of a 2-year study of gestational diabetes with the conclusion that the currently accepted target blood glucose levels for pregnant women should be lowered. If this should happen, it would significantly increase the number of gestational diabetes cases in America and throughout the world.
The sheer joy of having delivered a healthy baby is worth every effort needed to combat the gestational diabetes condition â a joy to be shared for many years to come.