Diabetes During Your Pregnancy:
Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Understanding diabetes that arises during pregnancy and gestation

Diabetes during pregnancy can contribute to a wide range of health problems in mothers and their babies. For instance, congenital defects and disabilities are more common in babies whose mothers have had gestational diabetes. In addition, mothers can also face serious complications.

Understanding what causes gestational diabetes and how to take care of yourself during pregnancy will make all the difference.

If you have questions about your specific pregnancy, be sure to talk to your pregnancy care provider.

What causes gestational diabetes?

Diabetes in pregnancy commonly originates in the hormones your body produces as a result of the pregnancy interfering with your insulin levels. Your body naturally makes glucose from the sugars contained in the carbohydrates that you eat, and insulin helps regulate your glucose levels. But when you have gestational diabetes, the insulin can’t move glucose to the cells where it’s supposed to be. As a result, too much glucose can build up in your blood and cause diabetes.

How common is gestational diabetes?

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), gestational diabetes occurs in between 2 to 10 percent of pregnancies in the United States each year. Based on CDC estimates, it’s likely that gestational diabetes is a condition that will continue increasing in the years and decades to come.

Although there is no connection between Type 2 diabetes and pregnancy in and of itself, the number of women who develop gestational diabetes has increased 56 percent, while the number of women who get diabetes before pregnancy has increased 37 percent.

The International Diabetes Federation estimates that gestational diabetes is to blame for 84 percent of cases of high blood sugar at birth. Mothers in the lower and middle-income levels are more likely to see these types of problems because of a lack of regular preventive care.

What factors increase your risk of diabetes during pregnancy?

Women who have a family history of diabetes (especially if a parent or sibling has diabetes) are more likely to have gestational diabetes. Having had diabetes in pregnancy previously can also increase your risk, as well as being of African American, Latina or Native American descent.

Being overweight may increase your chances of gestational diabetes, as well as having had glucose in your urine. If you have ever given birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds at delivery, your risk is also heightened.

How can gestational diabetes affect babies?

Low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia, may affect your baby after birth if you have had elevated blood sugar during the pregnancy. If your blood sugar is high while the baby is in the womb, the extra insulin your body produces will still have a lowering effect on your body shortly after birth. Therefore, your newborn's blood sugar is at risk of staying too low without any access to your maternal blood after delivery.

When your glucose levels are high during pregnancy, your baby is likely to have a high birth weight and be larger overall. Your baby's pancreas may generate extra insulin, which would make your baby store more fat and grow bigger. One of the possible effects of a large baby is a more difficult birth.

What problems can a mother have because of gestational diabetes?

If a pregnancy diabetes test reveals that you have diabetes, there are a few possible problems that you and your healthcare provider will need to watch for, in addition to potential issues with your baby. Pregnancy-related diabetes treatment may vary depending on the complication that you are facing.

Low blood sugar may occur if you take oral medications or insulin. When you have low blood sugar, this is a medical emergency that can become serious without prompt treatment. Monitoring your blood sugar, eating healthy foods and treating low blood sugar quickly will help eliminate these problems.

Preeclampsia is a dangerous condition that often occurs in women with pregnancy diabetes symptoms. This health condition may cause finger and toe swelling, protein in the urine and high blood pressure.

Doctors will monitor women with these symptoms carefully throughout the pregnancy. Besides the baby possibly being born early, which has its own set of complications, women with preeclampsia are more likely to have a stroke or seizure during their labor and delivery.

When a woman has poorly controlled diabetes, she may be more likely to require a C-section. A C-section involves the baby being delivered through an abdominal incision in the mother. The recovery process is longer after a C-section than it is after vaginal birth, especially in diabetic women.

Why quality pregnancy care is essential

If you are pregnant or want to become pregnant, then getting high-quality prenatal care is important. Diabetes in pregnancy is a condition that many women can help prevent with healthy dietary and lifestyle choices, in some cases. In other cases, it may be the result of genetics and there’s nothing a pregnant woman can do other than seek medical care from an experienced pregnancy care physician.

Regardless, regular checkups with your pregnancy care doctor can help you and your baby stay as healthy as possible through the pregnancy, labor and delivery.

If you have questions about diabetes or other pregnancy conditions, contact our team at All About Women today. Schedule an appointment with one of our compassionate and knowledgeable doctors.