Gestational diabetes - all you need to know | Risks, treatment & much more

  • Dr. Sugandh Goel

    Senior Medical Content Writer, BDS, MS (Healthcare Management), Carnegie Mellon University, USA.

  • Posted On December 16, 2020

As the name suggests, gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy.

GDM rate in India is 26% and is the highest across the globe. Indian women have 11 times more risk of developing GDM than any other women in the world.

GDM is caused due to the inability of the body to make extra insulin - the hormone which keeps the blood sugar levels within the target range.

The extra insulin is needed during pregnancy because the hormones from the placenta make your body less responsive to it. Failing to meet the extra demand for insulin, causes a spike in blood sugar levels, thereby causing GDM.

The raised blood sugar level have poor health outcomes for both mother and baby as listed below:

Complications for the Mother Complications for the baby
High blood pressure and preeclampsia Excessive birth weight
Increased chances of having a surgical delivery (C-section) Early (pre-term) birth
Risk for type 2diabetes in the future Breathing difficulties
  Low blood sugar shortly after the birth
  Obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life
  Stillbirth

Among the ones listed above, one of the biggest risks of GDM is that the baby may grow larger than the normal. So, there is a high chance of the baby's shoulders to get stuck during delivery. This greatly increases the chances of the cesarean section instead of vaginal delivery.

Who is at risk to develop GDM?

Typically, women who are obese or overweight with a BMI of more than 25 are at high risk of developing GDM.

Other risk factors include:

  1. A sedentary lifestyle with lack of exercise
  2. Previous history of diabetes or borderline diabetes
  3. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  4. Women who have had GDM in their previous pregnancies
  5. Family history of diabetes
  6. Previous baby delivered weighing more than 4 kg
  7. Race - South Asian women have a higher risk of developing GDM.
  8. Women who are expecting multiple babies
  9. Women who have gained a larger than normal amount of weight during pregnancy
    • In general, it is recommended, a pregnant woman should typically gain 1 to 2 kilos in the first three months and 1 kilo per two weeks for the rest of the pregnancy.
  10. Women who are above 25 years of age
  11. Have had miscarriage or stillbirth in the past
  12. Have been on glucocorticoids

Symptoms | Silent & mild

For most women, GDM may go unnoticed as it does not show any obvious signs and symptoms. The possible symptoms are increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, blurred vision and snoring.

Since the symptoms are so hard to pick up on, GDM is diagnosed by testing the sugar levels during 24th to 28th weeks of pregnancy.

The doctor will perform the following screening tests to diagnose GDM:

  1. Initial glucose challenge test

    This blood test includes measuring blood sugar levels one hour after drinking the syrupy glucose solution. If the sugar level is higher than the normal (140 mg/dL), the patient will need another glucose tolerance test to rule out GDM.

  2. Follow-up glucose tolerance test

    This test is similar to the initial test, where a patient's blood sugar will be checked every hour for 3 hours. If at least 2 of the blood sugar readings are higher than the normal values, the diagnosis of GDM will be confirmed.

Treatment | Personalised lifestyle therapy

GDM is treated by:

  1. Lifestyle therapy which includes healthy eating and regular exercise
  2. Blood sugar monitoring
  3. Medications like insulin injections, if necessary.

In addition to this, the doctor will closely monitor the growth of the developing baby with repeated ultrasounds and other tests.

Most women with GDM respond well to lifestyle therapy wherein a healthy diet plays a major role. Proper meal planning, portion control, wholesome snacking, eating regularly every two hours, spacing-out carbohydrates-rich food, monitoring protein intake and including healthy fats can help in managing GDM.

In addition to this, it is advised to aim for 30 mins of moderate exercise on most days of the week after the doctor gives a go-ahead. To begin with, a patient can start with a slow walk.

Adhering to a healthy lifestyle while coping with existing pregnancy symptoms, cravings, mood swings and more might be another mountain to scale for an expectant mother.

And, the added stress of being diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy can be even more disturbing. Also, with so many conflicting opinions and generic advice from everyone, a patient may not know what is right for her and her baby.

To end all these problems, Team Fitterfly has launched India's first-ever Digital Therapeutics Pregnancy Care Program—PregStar.

PregStar allows patient to make smart food choices and also take control of various other lifestyle factors - like physical activity, sleep, stress and much more. And, managing these factors together under expert guidance has its proven benefits.

PregStar can help a woman with GDM in the following ways:

  • Special diet plans to keep glucose levels in the right range.
  • Safe pregnancy exercises to prevent extra weight gain.
  • Stress management through meditation, counselling and much more.
  • Adequate sleep and rest to prevent fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
  • Continuous call and chat support from an expert PregStar Coach.

Allow a PregStar Coach-your buddy to walk you through this and answer all your questions. End all your pregnancy-related woes and make lifetime memories with PregStar.

Call now at 022 48971077 or visit PregStar to know more.

About PregStar

PregStar is a digital therapeutics pregnancy care program. It offers helpful, practical and reliable tips to ensure the best health of pregnant women and her baby from pregnancy to childbirth. It includes detailed diet analysis, special diet plans for complications, personalised meal and exercise plans trimester wise, practical tips for managing pregnancy-related symptoms, medical reminders, exclusive pregnancy blogs and videos along with call & chat support. Our PregStar Coach helps mommas-to-be make smart food choices, stay active, gain weight healthily, manage stress as she moves forward to welcome a new life!

References:

  1. Gestational diabetes | Causes and symptoms
  2. Pregnancy Diabetes Chart or Gestational Diabetes Mellitus Chart
  3. Gestational diabetes
  4. Gestational diabetes is a more serious problem in India than in other parts of the world: Dr Nam Han Cho
  5. Everything You Need to Know About Gestational Diabetes
  6. Gestational diabetes - Symptoms and causes
  7. 4 Common Pregnancy Complications
  8. Siddiqui S, Waghdhare S, Panda M, Sinha S, Singh P, Dubey S, Jha S. Regional prevalence of gestational diabetes mellitus in North India. Journal of Diabetology. 2019 Jan 1;10(1):25.

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Disclaimer: All information here, including text, images, tables, videos and any other content is for your knowledge only and we do not guarantee any specific result by following these recommendations as it may vary from person to person. The information is not a substitute for qualified medical advice from a doctor or other medical health expert.