Gestational diabetes mellitus is defined as `any degree of glucose intolerance with onset or first recognition during pregnancy’.
During pregnancy, growth hormones, cortisol and placental secretions, oestrogenand progesterone all disrupt the blood glucose insulin balance. This is why some women may not have diabetes prior to pregnancy, but will develop it during - often from the second trimester onwards. An increase in maternal fat stores, decreased exercise, and increased calorie intake, which sometimes go hand in hand with pregnancy, can all contribute to this state of glucose intolerance.
Affecting around 5% of all pregnancies in the UK, gestational diabetes or ‘GDM’ occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin to control blood sugar levels during pregnancy. It often disappears after the birth, but it can cause problems for both mum and baby during and after pregnancy. For example the mother is more at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes if she has had GDM in the past, and baby is at higher risk of suffering from obesity and diabetes in the future.
There are a few factors which increase the risk of developing GDM:
-Giving birth previously to a baby weighing 10lbs or more
-Suffering from GDM in a previous pregnancy
-Having a BMI of 30+
-Having parents or siblings who have diabetes
-Being from a family whose origins are from South Asia, China, Afro-carribbean and the Middle East are also at higher risk
-Having high blood pressure
There are a few factors which may help to prevent the onset of GDM:
-Eating a well balanced diet, aiming for no refined sugar. A study conducted in India recommended reduced consumption of sugar combined with an increase in greens and vegetables.
-Exercising for at least 30 minutes three times per week (exercising before and during pregnancy has the best preventative measures)
-Having a healthy weight gain for your gestational week (your midwife will be able to guide you on this)
If GDM does occur, it may be able to be managed through diet and exercise changes alone. However, some mothers may require insulin injections to control blood sugar levels. Medical advice must always be sought.
GDM is a medical condition and therefore must always be treated by medical professionals.
For more support from Gestational Diabetes UK click here