The physiologic changes associated with pregnancy can make it more difficult for the mother’s body to keep blood sugar levels normal.
Gestational diabetes is an abnormally elevated blood sugar (serum glucose) level that is found when a woman becomes pregnant. There need not be any previous indication of trouble with regulating blood sugar. Testing for glucose control during pregnancy is important since the increased blood glucose can cause problems for both mother and baby.
How Is Blood Sugar Controlled
When you eat, the components of the food that was ingested are broken down during digestion. Carbohydrates, fats and proteins are metabolized and while all can lead to the generation of glucose (dextrose) in the body, the most abundant source is when carbohydrates are broken down. Glucose is the simplest fuel available for the cells of the body. When glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream several signals respond to its presence, chief among these is insulin. Without insulin the cells of the body are not very good at taking up the available glucose.
What Happens During Pregnancy
As the pregnancy progresses, the mother’s body has to deal with dramatic changes in hormone levels and the energy requirements of not only her own cells but those of the developing baby. As the mother’s weight increases, her body may have a difficult time generating enough insulin to efficiently utilize the circulating glucose in the bloodstream. This is due, in part, to the effects of hormones made by the placenta which shift nutrients towards the developing fetus.
What Problems Are Caused by Gestational Diabetes
If a pregnant woman continues to have difficulties with maintaining a normal blood glucose level, one of the side effects is for the baby to grow larger than typically expected, a condition known as macrosomia. This can lead to very high birth weights and difficulty delivering the baby vaginally, leading to the need for a caesarean delivery. Another impact on the baby is that it can suffer from low blood glucose levels immediately after birth. Fortunately, these and other problems associated with the presence of gestational diabetes can be minimized with good blood sugar control.
How Is Gestational Diabetes Treated
Gestational diabetes and its associated elevation in the mother’s blood glucose can be treated by a number of means. Changes in eating habits, physical activity, the frequency and size of meals can all be used to help regulate the maternal blood glucose. In some cases insulin injection can also be used to assist in regulating blood glucose.
Gestational diabetes, once identified, can be regulated with little harm for either the mother or the developing baby. Always get good prenatal care and ask your family physician or obstetrician for advice and guidance. For additional information about gestational diabetes, visit the website of the US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.