Gestational Diabetes

Some of my girlfriends have experienced gestational diabetes during their pregnancies.  I still remembered how stressful they were at the time. Most of them have managed their gestational diabetes by changing their diet and increasing their physical activity. A few actually have used insulin to help manage the condition. Most of them do not have diabetes after the births of their child.

I want to let you know that about 3 to 8% of pregnant women will develop gestational diabetes and it is NOT the fault of the pregnant women!

Most women I know were diagnosed after blood tests. First, a screening test, Glucose Challenge Test (GCT), was used during which blood glucose level was measured one hour after a glucose drink.  Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) was done if the result of Glucose Challenge Test (GCT) was abnormal. Her blood sample was taken before and 2 hours after the drink for Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT). These tests were performed between 24 to 28 weeks pregnancy. However they can be done earlier for women with many risk factors for gestational diabetes.

Risks of developing gestational diabetes are greater if the pregnant woman is overweight or 30 years or older or has a family history of type 2 diabetes or has had gestational diabetes previously  or is from an indigenous Australian or Torres strait islander, a Chinese, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, Polynesian or Melanesian background.

The pregnancy hormones reduce the effectiveness of insulin so pregnant woman have to make more insulin (2 to 3 times more than normal) during the pregnancy. If the pregnant woman’s pancreas does not make enough extra insulin then gestational diabetes results when higher than normal blood glucose levels occur during pregnancy.

The baby has the same blood glucose level as the pregnant woman since the glucose goes into the baby’s blood through the placenta. Thus higher blood glucose level will lead to greater insulin production in the baby too. The baby will grow bigger if he/she faces a lot of glucose and insulin.

After the birth of the baby, most mothers’ maternal blood glucose levels will usually go back to normal. However, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on is increased for the mothers who had gestational diabetes. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on is also increased for the child.



Viv Hsu
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