CPR First Aid

Gestational Diabetes: Pregnancy Risks and Consequences

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy as the body cannot use glucose properly due to resistance to insulin. Learn how to manage this condition.

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 insulin resistance. Blood sugar levels become high and need to be closely watched. If not treated properly, it can lead to serious health problems for 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. An increasing number of women ages 15 to 49 have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Prevalence in the country shows that one in every eight pregnancies develops GDM. This usually develops around week 24 to 28 or earlier.

"Rapidly rising GDM rates in Australia, incl. Adelaide CBD, affect many pregnancies, esp. women 15-49. 1 in 8 pregnancies develop GDM."

Women who are at risk include:

  • 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 previously experienced elevated blood glucose levels
  • 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 typical 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 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 appropriately 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 are checked every hour for three hours. If at least two readings show high blood glucose, 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 at 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. Many benefits 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 made. 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 severe complication of pregnancy characterised by very high blood pressure and seizures, among other symptoms that can threaten both the mum’s life and the baby’s.

Mother at risk: hypertension, preeclampsia—high blood pressure, seizures—threatening both mom & baby.

Having a C-section

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

Future diabetes

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

How Will Gestational Diabetes Affect the Baby?

Gestational diabetes can cause problems for the baby, including:

Pre-eclampsia

This condition causes high blood pressure and protein in the urine. It is potentially harmful to both the mother and the child.

Macrosomia

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

Hypoglycaemia

The baby’s blood sugar gets too low. If not treated promptly, it can be harmful.

Jaundice

This is when the baby’s skin and eyes turn yellow. It could be an indication 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 manage diabetes during pregnancy successfully.

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 essential to avoid processed foods and simple carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, and rice.

Exercise Regularly

This should be done throughout pregnancy to manage blood sugar levels. Walking, swimming, and other moderate exercises are 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 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 glucometre 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 controlling your blood sugar.

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 essential 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 essential life support in emergency cases. A first aid course at Level 1/174 Gilles St, Adelaide 5000 will be beneficial in managing and emergency care of gestational diabetes.

CPR First Aid RTO 21903 is a leading Registered Training Organisation in SA and all over Australia, delivering high-quality and compliant courses for all interested individuals. Feel free to reach out to us for more information.

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