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Gestational diabetes mellitus is a specific type of diabetes that arises during pregnancy, usually during the second or third trimester. During the pregnancy the body needs more insulin but which mechanism leads to developing diabetes is still not completely clear. During pregnancy, female placenta produces several hormones such as estrogen, cortisol and human placental lactogen, that prevent insulin from doing its job. These hormones are vital to preserving your pregnancy. In some women, this type of diabetes occurs because the body cannot produce enough insulin to meet the extra needs of pregnancy. Anyway, if diabetes was diagnosed in the first trimester, the condition most likely existed before the pregnancy.
Diabetes and risks for the baby
Increased possibility for birth defects
It is proven that women with poorly controlled preexisting diabetes in the early weeks of pregnancy, are 3 to 4 times more likely to have a baby with a serious birth defect, such as:
- a heart defect
- neural tube defect,
- other birth defects of the brain or spinal cord
They also are at the increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.
The exact month in pregnancy in which a women has developed this condition is of great importance. Women with gestational diabetes, which generally develops later in pregnancy, usually do not have an increased risk of having a baby with a birth defect.
Sometimes babies of mothers with gestational diabetes develop low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) shortly after the birth.
Macrosomia – very large baby
It is proven that women with poorly controlled diabetes are at the increased risk of having a very large baby. This condition is called macrosomia. It is proven that these babies grow that much because of the extra sugar in mother’s blood crosses the placenta and goes to the fetus. The fetus then produces extra insulin, which helps it process the sugar and store it as fat. This excess fat tends to accumulate around the shoulders and trunk, sometimes making these babies difficult to deliver vaginally and putting them at risk for injuries during the delivery.
Death of the baby
There is also a slightly higher chance of stillbirth or death of the newborn, but if diabetes is detected and the glucose levels are well managed, death is rare.
Research has proven that babies of women with poorly controlled diabetes are at the increased risk of breathing difficulties, low blood sugar levels and jaundice. Babies of women with poorly controlled diabetes also may be at increased risk of developing obesity and diabetes as young adults.
Gestational diabetes and risks for the mother
Gestational diabetes is not an immediate threat to the woman's health. This means that most women whose blood sugar levels stay within the safe range deliver their babies without complications, although in some women it can result in high blood pressure.
The problem is that women who get gestational diabetes are more likely to develop gestational diabetes in future pregnancies, and are at a higher risk of developing type II diabetes later in life. That’s why an early diagnosis and treatment are crucial.