The Top 6 Questions About Pregnancy Diabetes

Rebecca McPhee
Dietitian Member of the DAA


3 Minutes

For most women, pregnancy and diabetes mentioned in the same sentence can bring about daunting feelings. However, pregnancy diabetes, also known as gestational diabetes is more common than you may think. In Australia, one in every seven Australian women have gestational diabetes during pregnancy, and in Canberra, the rates are even higher. Don't worry; there is no need to panic as there is so much we now know about how to prevent and manage gestational diabetes. 

No doubt, you will have some burning questions regarding your risk of gestational diabetes. So, here's our answers to 6 of the most commonly asked questions surrounding this topic.   

 

What is pregnancy diabetes?  

 

Pregnancy diabetes, otherwise known as gestational diabetes, occurs when the hormones produced by the placenta block the action of a women's insulin in regulating blood sugar levels. Irregular blood sugar levels can lead to some complications including early labour, bigger babies and high blood pressure for mums - among others.  

Gestational diabetes usually goes away when the baby is born; however, research shows that women who have had gestational diabetes are 50% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Further, if you have Gestational diabetes in your first pregnancy, you have a 30-69% chance of it recurring in future pregnancies.

The good news is that in most cases, gestational diabetes can be managed to ensure a healthy mum and bub. 

 

1. What are the symptoms of pregnancy diabetes? 

Symptoms of gestational diabetes are not always obvious. Gestational Diabetes is tested between 24 and 28 weeks during pregnancy. 

 

2. What are the risks to me and my baby? 

Women with gestational diabetes are more likely to have a caesarean section, pre-term labour, or induced labour than women without gestational diabetes. The good news is that the likelihood of these happening is still relatively small. Most women manage their gestational diabetes effectively to have a pregnancy (and birth) free from serious complications. 

 

3. Can pregnancy diabetes be treated? 

Following a healthy diet, being more active and checking your blood sugar levels are the main ways to manage gestational diabetes and reduce the risks to you and the baby. However, some women may need to take tablets or insulin if they have difficulty achieving the recommended blood sugar target levels.  

 

4. Can I prevent pregnancy diabetes? 

Gestational diabetes cannot always be prevented. however, being aware of the risk factors and what you can do about it will help you to have a healthier pregnancy.  

 

Risk factors include:

- Previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes or high blood sugar levels. 

- Strong family history of type 2 diabetes. 

- Being over the age of 40 

- Being from specific ethnic backgrounds. 

- Being above the healthy weight range. 

- Have gained weight rapidly in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

- Having polycystic ovarian syndrome. 

- Taking some types of antipsychotic or steroid medications. 

 

What are the long-term impacts of pregnancy diabetes for me? 

For most women, gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born. A blood test six- to-twelve-weeks after childbirth can confirm if diabetes has resolved. Unfortunately, however, this is not necessarily the end of the diabetes journey.  

In recent years, its research shows that women with gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing health problems later in life. The risk of type 2 diabetes is 50% higher in women who have had gestational diabetes, and the risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease is nearly tripled.

By following a healthy lifestyle, you can help limit your risk of developing these conditions.

 

What are the long-term impacts of pregnancy diabetes for my baby? 

Children of gestational diabetes pregnancies have a higher risk of obesity and having diabetes later in life.

 

Summary  

  • The symptoms of gestational diabetes are not always obvious. 

  • Gestational diabetes can cause health complications during pregnancy and beyond.  

  • In many cases, gestational diabetes can be prevented through maintaining a healthy weight through a healthy diet and regular exercise.  

  • Women who have had gestational diabetes are at higher risk of lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  

  • Children of diabetes pregnancies have a higher chance of obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.  

 

While the risks and complications of pregnancy diabetes are known, there is a lot that can be done to prevent and manage the condition – starting with a balanced diet and regular exercise.  

For great diet plans, workouts, recipes tips, hacks, events and so much more, join the Capital Chicks CANberra online community today.  

 

References

  • AIHW. National Hospital Morbidity Database, 2016-2017.
  • O’Sullivan J. Diabetes Mellitus after GDM.  Diabetes 1991; 29 (Suppl.2): 131‐35 
  • Stephanie MacNeill et al. Rates and Risk Factors for Recurrence of Gestational Diabetes. Diabetes Care 2001 Apr; 24(4): 659-662. Moses RG. The recurrence rate of gestational diabetes mellitus in subsequent  pregnancies. Diabetes Care 1996; 19: 1348‐1350
  • N Poolsup et al. Effect of Treatment of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS One. 2014; 9(3): e92485.
  • Black MH, Sacks DA, Xiang AH, Lawrence JM. The relative contribution of pre-pregnancy overweight and obesity, gestational weight gain, and IADPSG-defined gestational diabetes mellitus to fetal overgrowth. Diabetes Care. 2013; 36(1):5662.
  • Nankervis A, McIntyre HD, Moses R, Ross GP, Callaway L, Porter C, Jeffries W,  Boorman C, De Vries B, McElduff. ADIPS Consensus Guidelines for the Testing and  Diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus in Australia . Australasian Diabetes in Pregnancy  Society 
  • O’Sullivan J. Diabetes Mellitus after GDM.  Diabetes 1991; 29 (Suppl.2): 131‐35 
  • Ferrara A et al. Diabetes Care. 2011 Jul;34(7):1519-25. A pregnancy and postpartum lifestyle intervention in women with gestational diabetes mellitus reduces diabetes risk factors: a feasibility randomized control trial.Shin Kim;Andrea Sharma;William Callaghan. Gestational diabetes and childhood obesity: what is the link? Obstretrics and Gynaecology. December 2012 - Volume 24 - Issue 6 - p 376-381

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