Gestational Diabetes – What Exactly Is It?

You may have heard of the term Gestational Diabetes and thought that is was purely a reference to women who already have diabetes before they fall pregnant. In fact, Gestational diabetes is something that only occurs during pregnancy itself. It can happen to any woman from any background, of any age and of any race. You do not even have to have a history of diabetes in your family to be at risk of developing Gestational Diabetes.

It is very unclear as to what exactly causes Gestational Diabetes and why it only affects certain women who become pregnant. One thing is for sure, if you do develop this condition when you are pregnant, you have to take much better care of yourself than you normally would.

Are You High Risk?

Although this form of diabetes does not usually come with a set of distinct symptoms, there are clues you can look out for if you are worried about developing it. For example, you may experience extreme  tiredness, blurred vision, insatiable thirst and have to take a toilet break more often than you would think is normal for a pregnant woman. If you experience any of these symptoms it is best to speak to your doctor or midwife.
If your physician thinks that you may be at risk of developing Gestational Diabetes during your pregnancy there is a test they can carry out. This test is known as the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (often shortened to OGTT) and will determine whether you are classed as high risk. The midwife can also do a urine test at your ante-natal appointments to see if there is sugar present in your urine, although this method is not often used nowadays.

If you have been diagnosed with the condition then you have to keep a close eye on what you are eating and monitor your exercise levels. If you can keep these factors under control, then you can regulate how much insulin is being produced in your body and being passed on to your baby. Your doctor or midwife will discuss what lifestyle changes need to take place in order for you to ensure that the condition does not affect your pregnancy in the extreme. In about 20% of cases, it may be recommended that you take some medication to help you along.

What You Can Do

All of this information may seem frightening but you will have a lot of help and support along the way. You will be offered regular ultrasound scans to check the weight of your baby (it is quite common for women with Gestational Diabetes to have big babies) and to check that the amniotic fluid is just right. Remember, you are not in this alone and you should use the support network in place to ensure that your pregnancy runs as smoothly as it can.

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