Your body normally produces a hormone called insulin that controls the levels of blood sugar or glucose in your blood. If you have diabetes, your body does not produce enough insulin or does not use insulin effectively. During pregnancy, a small number of women develop gestational diabetes, even though they did not have diabetes before they became pregnant. This condition is thought to be caused by elevated hormone levels that produce metabolic changes during pregnancy.
In most cases, gestational diabetes does not cause symptoms and is not a health risk for you. It does, however, create health risks for your baby. If this condition is not treated, your baby is at greater risk of being stillborn or of dying as a newborn. Gestational diabetes also can cause your fetus to have an excessive birth weight. When your baby is very large, you have an increased likelihood of cesarean birth or birth injuries. Babies born to mothers with diabetes are also quite prone to hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
The symptoms of gestational diabetes are not very obvious, so the condition must be detected by a glucose tolerance test. It usually develops in the second half of your pregnancy. You may be predisposed to this condition if you are obese, are over 30 years old or have a family history of diabetes. However, nearly half of the women with gestational diabetes have no risk factors at all. To manage this type of diabetes during your pregnancy, you should follow a diet planned for you by a registered dietitian, exercise regularly and have your blood-glucose level tested often. If your condition is severe, you may need insulin injections to control your blood-sugar levels; pregnant women who take daily insulin are three to four times more likely to have a baby with major birth defects.
Gestational diabetes usually disappears immediately after pregnancy, but you are at increased risk of encountering it again in another pregnancy. You are also more prone to developing diabetes in later life. Fortunately, there is no increased risk that your baby will develop diabetes, despite the fact that you had diabetes during pregnancy.
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