CPR First Aid

Gestational Diabetes Pregnancy Risks and Consequences

Gestational Diabetes: Pregnancy Risks and Consequences

What is gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM)? It is a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy as the body cannot use glucose properly due to resistance to insulin. Blood sugar levels become high and need to be closely watched. If not treated properly, it can lead to serious health problems for both the mother and the baby. First-time and young mums might feel scared and alone if diagnosed with gestational diabetes. This post will overview the risks and consequences of GDM to maintain a healthy and safe pregnancy.

Who is at High Risk for Developing Gestational Diabetes

According to Diabetes Australia, GDM is the fastest-growing type of diabetes across Australia including Adelaide CBD, affecting thousands of pregnancies. There is an increasing number of women ages 15 to 49 diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Prevalence in the country shows that one in every eight pregnancies develops GDM. This usually develops around weeks 24 to 28 or earlier.

Women, who are at risk include:?

  • Aged Had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • A family history of type 2 diabetes
  • 40 years or over
  • First-degree relative  e.g. mother or sister who has had GDM
  • Overweight 
  • Had elevated blood glucose levels in the past
  • First Nations women
  • African, Melanesian, Polynesian, South Asian, Chinese, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, and South American backgrounds
  • Has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  • Has given birth to a large baby, weighing more than 4.5kg
  • Takes antipsychotic or steroid medications.

What are the Causes of Gestational Diabetes?

There is no telling why some pregnancies lead to GDM and others don’t. Apart from excess weight common in diabetes, one phenomenon leads to this condition.

The pancreas releases the hormone, insulin which helps move glucose from the bloodstream into the cells. Sugar is used in making the energy the body needs. In pregnancy, the role of the placenta is to produce hormones to support the baby’s growth and development. These hormones, however, impede or block the action of the mother’s insulin.

Insulin Resistance

When hormones block insulin, this is called insulin resistance. This happens when the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin. The pancreas must produce 2 to 3 times more insulin to help the cells in the body take in glucose for energy. Eventually, the mother’s pancreas cannot keep up with the demand for insulin, resulting in higher blood glucose levels.

Other less common causes of gestational diabetes include certain medical conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and Cushing’s syndrome, and medications such as corticosteroids.

Normal Blood Glucose Levels for Pregnant Women

Pregnant women in Australia have different blood glucose levels depending on their stage of pregnancy. 

  • In the early stages of pregnancy, blood glucose levels should be between 4 and 5 mmol/L.
  • In the later stages of pregnancy, blood glucose levels should be between 5 and 6 mmol/L.

Blood Tests to Check Glucose Levels in Pregnancy

General glucose screening tests include:

A glucose challenge test

Also known as the one-hour glucose tolerance test, is an initial check to measure a pregnant woman’s response to sugar or glucose. A sugary drink is given and blood glucose is measured after an hour. If blood sugar is higher than 7.8 mmol/L, there is a need for a confirmatory test.

What is a glucose tolerance test?

The follow-up oral glucose tolerance test involves more sugar in the solution given and the blood sugar levels checked every hour for three hours. If at least two of the readings show high blood glucose, then the diagnosis is gestational diabetes.

Warning Signs of GDM

Pregnancies differ from one woman to another. Be on the lookout for the following scenarios that may hint the occurrence of gestational diabetes.

  • May experience extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Sugar in urine
  • Blurred vision
  • Feels fatigued most of the time
  • Nausea
  • Infection in the urinary bladder, vaginal area, or skin

Sometimes symptoms won’t manifest immediately. One way to prepare is to undergo training in first aid in Adelaide. There are many benefits that come with it to keep the mum and the baby safe.

What are Complications That May Affect Pregnant Women?

Early diagnosis and close monitoring of blood sugar levels should be done. Otherwise, if gestational diabetes is left untreated, this can result to:

High Blood Pressure and Preeclampsia

The mother becomes at risk of having hypertension and experiencing preeclampsia — a serious complication of pregnancy characterised by very high blood pressure, seizures among others, and symptoms that can threaten both the mum’s life and the baby’s.

Having a C-section

Due to difficulties that may arise, the mother may have to undergo surgical delivery, called cesarean section or C-section.

Future diabetes

GDM is more likely to reappear in future pregnancies. Furthermore, both the mother and the baby are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes as they get older.

How Will Gestational Diabetes Affect the Baby?

Gestational diabetes can cause problems for the baby including:

Pre-eclampsia

This is a condition that causes high blood pressure and protein in the urine. It can be dangerous for both the mother and the baby.

Macrosomia

Large babies are more likely to get stuck during delivery, which can cause serious health problems for both the mother and the baby.

Hypoglycemia

The baby’s blood sugar gets too low. It can be dangerous if not treated quickly.

Jaundice

This is when the baby’s skin and eyes turn yellow. It can be a sign of liver problems.

Respiratory Distress Syndrome

This is when the baby has trouble breathing. It can be caused by the large size of the baby or by prematurity.

Pregnancy will need to be closely monitored by the healthcare provider to prevent complications.

How Did You Handle Gestational Diabetes During Pregnancy?

There are many ways to successfully manage diabetes during pregnancy.

Eating Healthy

Diet is often the most successful way to keep blood sugar levels in this range. This means eating small, frequent meals and snacks that are low in sugar and high in fiber. It is also important to avoid processed foods and simple carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, and rice.

Exercise Regularly

This should be done all throughout pregnancy to manage blood sugar levels. Walking, swimming and other forms of moderate exercise are all safe for pregnant women with gestational diabetes.

Losing Extra Weight

Don’t gain more weight than recommended by your doctor.

Medication

If diet and exercise are not enough to keep blood sugar levels under control, medication may also be necessary to reach the blood sugar goals. Insulin is the most common medication used to treat gestational diabetes, and it is safe for both mother and child.

No matter what treatment plan you and your healthcare team come up with, it is important to monitor your blood sugar levels regularly. Checking your blood sugar at home with a glucometer is an easy way to do this. You should also see your healthcare provider for regular checkups, and more frequently if you are having trouble keeping your blood sugar under control.

In conclusion, gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born. However, women who have had GDM are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Therefore, it is important for women who have had gestational diabetes to be screened for type 2 diabetes and other risk factors for heart disease.

How Can I Help in Emergency Cases?

Husbands, caregivers, or coworkers in Adelaide CBD can learn more about providing basic life support in emergency cases. A first aid course in Level 1/174 Gilles St, Adelaide 5000 will prove to be beneficial in the management and emergency care of gestational diabetes.

CPR First Aid is a leading Registered Training Organisation (RTO) in SA and all over Australia delivering high-quality and compliant courses for all interested participants. For more information, feel free to reach out to us.

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