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Gestational Diabetes

Ann E. Butenas


Diabetes is a condition resulting from too much glucose or sugar in the blood. When the body is incapable of producing enough insulin, the blood glucose level elevates and many metabolic problems can arise.

While some people do develop diabetes during childhood, others may become diabetic when they get older. The fluctuating hormonal levels associated with pregnancy can produce a condition known as gestational diabetes. This is the most common of all pregnancy complications, and affects roughly ten percent of all pregnancies.

A woman's risk for developing gestational diabetes increases is she has a relative (mother, sister, aunt) with the disease. The diabetes, whether pre-existing or brought about by pregnancy, is very serious and can pose a health risk to both the mother and the baby.

Some other complications associated with gestational diabetes are preeclampsia, and urinary tract infections. If such infections remain untreated, proper kidney function can be affected. It can also be a contributing factor in large fetal growth, respiratory distress syndrome (which can affect the baby's ability to breathe effectively after birth), and can cause abnormal amounts of amniotic fluid in the sac surrounding the fetus.

Further, gestational diabetes can increase the risk of miscarriage or trigger pre-term labor. If complications do arise, the diabetic mother-to-be may have to deliver the baby prematurely.

Moms-to-be who develop gestational diabetes can control it through certain dietary modifications. Sugary foods can be eliminated, bananas, and caffeine. Eating several smaller meals as opposed to three large ones will help keep the glucose levels in check. It is not wise to go for long periods between meals or to attempt to diet during this period. Balance good nutrition with exercise. In some cases, insulin injection may be given to the pregnant mom. Home monitoring kits that allow the mom-to-be to check her glucose levels are handy.

With proper medical care and attention, a mom-to-be who had diabetes prior to pregnancy, or who developed gestational diabetes, does have a great chance of delivering a healthy baby. In most cases, the blood sugar levels of a woman will fall back to normal after delivery.

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References for this article: Semchyshyn, Stefan, M.D., 1989. How to Prevent Miscarriage and Other Crisises of Pregnancy. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company. Kitzinger, Sheila, 1996. The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth. New York: Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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