Overview of Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is a mild diabetes that is first recognized in pregnancy. Taking control of it lessens the chance it will do any harm to the baby and once managed all is typically fine. It occurs because the mother’s pancreas does not make enough extra insulin to control the blood sugar, needed when hormones from the placenta block the normal action of insulin. These hormones rise most in the second part of pregnancy and so this is when gestational diabetes is typically found.
For the baby the concern with gestational diabetes is that now the higher blood sugar freely crosses into the baby and it is as if the baby converts the sugar into fat, these babies get too big making for a more difficult delivery for baby and mother. Also the baby gets used to higher sugars and so just after birth the baby’s blood sugar may drop and they can get hypoglycemia. I have never seen a baby born with diabetes because t he mom had gestational diabetes.
For the mother the diabetes is usually not severe and resolves once the baby is born. Because the mothers pancreas is now know to be not perfect women who had gestational diabetes are at high risk for diabetes in the long term, a risk that can be tempered by watching diet and weight and keeping active.
Most gestational diabetes responds very well to watching what one eats and being careful with diet. Walking after meals helps use up blood sugar and keeps it controlled. Some need insulin and blood sugar lowering tablets are being increasingly used. These medicines can nearly always be stopped once the baby is born.
Gestational diabetes can cause problems but once it is picked up and managed the outcome is usually excellent. It also gives a heads up about increased risk for the mother to get diabetes in the long term, a risk that she can do something about.