Gestational diabetes is a high blood sugar/glucose level during pregnancy.
These high blood sugar/glucose levels cause minimal problems for the mother, but can be damaging and threaten the health of the unborn baby.
The baby may often be bigger than normal, and this may cause problems with delivery.
The hormones which are produced during pregnancy interfere with the way the mother’s body manages glucose. As a result, blood sugar/glucose levels are not controlled.
If present, gestational diabetes will develop between weeks 15-20 of pregnancy – that is, during the 4th and 5th months (about the half-way month of pregnancy). Doctor’s test for high blood sugar/glucose regularly during the pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes is usually short-term and blood sugar levels typically return to normal in the days after delivery.
However, Gestational diabetes may increase the mother's risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
During the pregnancy, as for all pregnancies, the mother needs to eat carefully and exercise – this should be enough to control the blood glucose/sugar levels. In some cases the woman may need to take insulin – if the doctor recommends this, it is best to follow this advice. This decision will have been based on the interests of the mother’s and child’s health.
However, researchers who have studied women who have had diabetes during pregnancy, have found that these women have a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes later on in their lives. However, these women have a good chance of preventing the condition by diet and lifestyle modifications.
Rizwana Kousar 2010. What is Diabetes? Diabetes and Your Community Education Series, Melbourne. © Australian Community Centre for Diabetes (ACCD).
Images: Margaret Mayhew, Australian Community Centre for Diabetes (ACCD), 2011.