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We all know how common diabetes mellitus, and how it affects both men and women of all ages. However, when it comes to the pregnant woman, diabetes can have many more complications as it affects both the mother and the fetus alike.

Diabetes is a chronic condition which is characterized by increased level of sugar in the blood, and produces symptoms like increased thirst, increased hunger, and frequent urination.

Diabetes is caused by either decreased levels of insulin which is the hormone that causes the muscles and tissues in your body to absorb and use the sugar from the blood or increased resistance to insulin.

If the tissues in your body are not using up the sugar, it causes the sugar to remain in the blood which can later affect both you and your baby.

There are different types of diabetes namely:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Gestational diabetes

This article will be focused on gestational diabetes which is the type of diabetes that affects pregnant women with no history of diabetes prior to pregnancy. It usually disappears after you baby is born but if it is not managed properly, it can lead to the woman developing Type 2 diabetes after pregnancy. It is very important that pregnant women get screened to make sure they do not have this disease and make sure they take the appropriate treatments to avoid complications.

As common as gestational diabetes is, a lot of pregnant women do not know they have gestational diabetes because generally, they do not present with any symptoms. This is why a screening test (Oral Glucose Tolerance Test) is recommended at the end of the second trimester of your pregnancy. Some of the symptoms are increased thirst, nausea, vomiting, recurrent infection, fatigue, and blurry vision.

Classification of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is very common and occurs in as many as 18 out of every 100 pregnant women. When you get pregnant, your body automatically increases the resistance to insulin. This is most likely due to the pregnancy hormones being produced in great quantity.

Gestational diabetes can be divided into two subtypes: Type A1 and Type A2.

Type A1 occurs when there is an abnormal glucose tolerance test but the blood sugar is normal during fasting and two hours after eating.

Type A2 occurs when there is an abnormal glucose tolerance test both during fasting and after eating.

Type A1 can be treated with diet modifications and exercise, whereas type A2 is treated with medications or insulin.

Risk Factors for Developing Gestational Diabetes

Certains factors put a lot of women at risk of developing gestational diabetes, and thus women with known risks should be screened earlier (before week 28) for gestational diabetes.  According to the American Diabetes Association, the following are considered key risk factors for the development of gestational diabetes:

- Obesity

- Personal history or family history of gestational diabetes

- Family history of diabetes.

- Personal history of giving birth to a very large baby.

- Race: If you are of an Asian, African American, Native America, African-Caribbean or Middle Eastern descent, you have an increased risk of gestational diabetes. Caucasian females are at a lower risk.

- Age also plays an important role, with women older than 25 being at higher risk.

- Diet and lifestyle

If you are at an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes, you should adopt a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as fibers. In addition, it is important to stay active by walking and exercising even if it is just for 30 minutes. If you do not have any of the risk factors, you are at a low risk of developing gestational diabetes but should still get screened to avoid any preventable pregnancy complications.

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