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Gestational Diabetes: The Risk Factors and the Symptoms


You're thrilled to discover your carrying a little bundle of joy!  All is going well until one day you discover, at a routine prenatal visit with your OB/GYN, that you may have gestational diabetes.  But you feel fine and have not had one symptom out of the ordinary pregnant woman spectrum of aches and pains.  What is gestational diabetes and does it have any symptoms?  Are there risk factors that you weren't aware of?  The questions tumble about searching for answers.   

Gestational diabetes occurs in anywhere from 2% to 6% of pregnant women who were not previously diabetic.  It usually makes an appearance in the second half of the pregnancy. Insulin, produced in the pancreas, breaks down sugar to create energy for the body.  When not enough insulin is manufactured the glucose levels rise in the blood causing diabetes.  In pregnant women with gestational diabetes the elevated sugar in the blood enters the placenta and in turn the fetus may produce more insulin to compensate for the higher glucose levels.  The other forms of diabetes, types 1 and 2 are permanent conditions that can be managed and controlled but not cured.  Gestational diabetes, on the other hand, usually disappears shortly after giving birth

Often a pregnant woman will exhibit no symptoms, but through a urine test, blood test, or a suspicious doctor it is discovered.  Exactly what causes this condition to develop is not known at this time, but there are risk factors that every woman considering becoming pregnant should be aware of.  

Risk factors Include:

  1. Adult onset diabetes runs in your family
  2. You're over the age of 35
  3. You're obese
  4. In the past you've given birth to a large baby
  5. In the past you've given birth to a baby with abnormalities
  6. You've experienced still birth late in pregnancy

Often times a woman experiences no symptoms at all, but the symptoms of type 2 diabetes may occur in gestational diabetes also.  Some of the symptoms are the same as a woman in a normal pregnancy would exhibit.  Those symptoms are:

  1. Extreme thirst
  2. An increased need to urinate.
  3. Hunger
  4. Fatigue (These first four symptoms are often conditions that occur during the last trimester of a pregnancy) 
  5. Blurred vision
  6. Frequent infections such as infections of the bladder or vagina.
  7. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy.  
If your physician suspects gestational diabetes he will order a glucose tolerance test sometime between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy.  There is no doubt that having gestational diabetes is not healthy for you or your baby, but it can be controlled.  If the glucose levels are high enough, taking insulin for the duration of the pregnancy will keep it in check.  Through eating a healthy diet, exercising appropriate to your pregnancy, and carefully monitoring your glucose levels, the condition known as gestational diabetes can be managed.  Just remember not only will you deliver a bouncing bundle of baby, but shortly after giving birth the gestational diabetes will likely disappear. 

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