Explanation of Gestational Diabetes

July 1, 2015
Gestational diabetes

When a woman becomes pregnant, her placenta releases hormones to sustain the pregnancy. While critical to normal fetal development, these hormones can make the woman's cells more resistant to insulin. In most cases, the pancreas produces more insulin to overcome this resistance; however, sometimes, it cannot keep up. When this happens, glucose accumulates in the bloodstream and gestational diabetes occurs.
What Are the Risks?
When women develop gestational diabetes, high blood glucose levels may travel through the placenta into the baby's blood. This causes the baby's pancreas to produce more insulin, which can result in macrosomia, or a "fat" baby. Babies with macrosomia face increased health risks, including damaged shoulders during birth, very low blood glucose levels at birth, breathing problems and an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes in the future. For this reason, it's important for expectant mothers to get regular checkups to test for gestational diabetes.
What Are the Symptoms?
Most women will show very few if any noticeable signs of gestational diabetes. For this reason, it's critical that pregnant women seek consistent screenings throughout their pregnancies. If you show signs of gestational diabetes, your physician may recommend dietary changes to help manage your blood sugar. In some cases, medications and/or insulin injections may also be necessary.
Lowering Your Risk
Any pregnant woman can develop gestational diabetes; however, the following people are at greater risk:

  • Women older than 25
  • Women with a family history of diabetes
  • Expecting mothers who have prediabetes
  • Women who are overweight
  • Women who are American Indian, black, Hispanic or Asian

Future Complications
While most people return to normal after giving birth, gestational diabetes can increase a woman's risk of developing high blood pressure and/or type 2 diabetes later in life. That said, regular exercise and a healthy diet can mitigate this risk for most people.
Symptoms and Treatments for Hypoglycemia
Also known as hypoglycemia, low blood sugar is a potentially dangerous condition with life-threatening consequences. To understand whether you're susceptible, learn the most common low blood sugar symptoms and causes.
Why it Matters
Without adequate glucose, your body's brain, muscle and organs cannot perform normally. Blood sugar is considered low when it falls under 70 mg/dL. Low blood glucose typically results when people skip meals, exercise more than usual, eat less than normal or take too much medication. While most common in people who have diabetes, low blood sugar can occur in non-diabetics due to medications, metabolic problems, alcohol use, stomach issues and diseases of the kidneys, liver or pancreas.
What Are the Symptoms?
Low blood glucose can bring on several telltale symptoms, include:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • sweating
  • shaking
  • hunger
  • headache
  • pale skin
  • unexplained fatigue
  • sudden nervousness
  • sudden mood changes
  • rapid heartbeat
  • blurry vision
  • skin tingling
  • trouble concentrating
  • fainting

A rapid drop in blood sugar is a medical emergency, which can result in seizures, fainting, nerve damage or coma.
What You Should Do
When someone experiences a rapid drop in blood glucose, you should help him or her consume 15 grams of quickly digesting carbohydrates, such as:

  • A tablespoon of honey
  • A half cup of juice
  • Approximately four saltine crackers
  • Glucose tablets
  • A tablespoon of sugar

Getting Help
Mild blood sugar drops are relatively common for diabetics. That said, when people have consistent difficulty managing their blood sugar levels, medical attention becomes necessary. A physician can help you create a plan to manage your condition. This may include medications that increase blood sugar, along with home tests which provide readings on blood sugar levels. It's also important to educate friends, coworkers and family members about how they should respond if your blood sugar levels drop too low. Many people also choose to wear medical identification bracelets to help guide first responders in emergency situations.

Son kissing mother
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I wanted to take a moment to thank you for the attention you gave me last week. My son was started on antibiotics and ear drops. Within 24 hours he began to feel better. The poor kid had been going to school in tears because he was afraid of missing any more days, but feeling (and looking) just awful! He's not been able to even think about lacrosse practice, but thanks to starting him on antibiotics, he was thrilled to return to practice today.
Patient
Somers, NY
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