Friday, April 21, 2017

An Overview of Diabetes During Pregnancy

Women having diabetes prior to becoming pregnant may be at risk for complications during pregnancy. A woman’s risk related to diabetes during pregnancy may depend on how long she has had diabetes. It is important that a woman with gestational diabetes to be checked by her doctor regularly, because complications such as high blood pressure and kidney damage could occur.

Approximately 1 to 3 percent of pregnant women have diabetes during pregnancy. If gestational diabetes goes undiagnosed and untreated, the mother and the baby may be at risk for serious health problems. Gestational diabetes is so dangerous that the fetus could die before being born. Gestational diabetes is very common in overweight and obese women. Diabetes during pregnancy is also fairly common in certain ethnic groups; Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, Asian and Indian women are at higher risk than other ethnicities.

Women who suffer from elevated blood glucose levels during pregnancy can’t generate enough insulin to carry the glucose into the cells. More insulin is required to stabilize the increasing blood sugar levels of a gestational diabetic. Some women may have had undiagnosed diabetes prior to becoming pregnant; however, most women with gestational diabetes are symptomatic only during pregnancy and return to a non-diabetic state after the birth of the baby. Doctors advocate that pregnant women get tested for gestational diabetes early in the pregnancy. Their blood glucose levels should be checked at regular office visits.

Risks of diabetes during pregnancy

The risks of diabetes during pregnancy include:

Danger of early miscarriage

Major birth defects

Babies born with excessive weight

Difficult delivery due to the size of the baby

Immature lung development of the baby

Risk of preeclampsia (high blood pressure)

Risk of eclampsia (seizures) during labor and delivery


If the mother’s diabetes isn’t adequately controlled during the early pregnancy, there could be a risk of early miscarriage or birth defects. Babies born of diabetic women are usually much larger than babies born of non-diabetic women. Some babies weigh over 10 to 15 pounds and even heavier. Babies are at risk of being born postmature, which means they are born much later than their due date. Babies born postmature often have dry flaky skin. The infants often have lung problems, if the mother’s blood sugar levels haven’t been kept in good control. The mother is at risk for hypertension. Rarely, a mother could suffer from a stroke due to high blood pressure and other complications. It is very important to keep the mother’s blood pressure under control, because if she goes into seizures, this is a medical emergency.

Treatment for gestational diabetes

The treatment for gestational diabetes is to keep the blood glucose levels within a safe range. The blood sugar level should be normal throughout the pregnancy. If a diabetic woman is planning to become pregnant, she should seek advice from her doctor about ways to normalize her blood sugar levels.

Foods high in sugar should be removed from the diet. Most pregnant women, having gestational diabetes are asked to do finger sticks to check the blood glucose levels several times a day. The doctor would likely want her sugar tested before and after meals and at bedtime. This will give the doctor and the mother a picture of what her blood sugars are doing at different times of the day. If the mother’s blood sugar levels are high, she may need to take insulin.


Controlling diabetes is very important in the later period of pregnancy. During that period of time the blood sugar levels have a tendency to increase because the mother’s body becomes less reactive to insulin. Insulin resistance occurs because the enlarging placenta creates hormones which neutralize the effects of the insulin. In that case, a higher dose of insulin may be needed.

In the case of an early delivery, the doctor can remove and analyze a sample of the fluid that surrounds the fetus. This sample is taken by a procedure that is called an amniocentesis. This test helps the doctor to decide if the fetus’s lungs are developed enough to breathe air after being born.

Women with gestational diabetes may need insulin during the pregnancy, and the need for insulin may diminish after delivery. The mother’s blood glucose level usually returns to normal within a week after delivery, unless she was a diabetic prior to pregnancy.


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