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What is Gestational Diabetes? Symptoms Causes & Prevention

Gestational Diabetes: Cause, Symptoms and Management

What is Gestational Diabetes? Symptoms Causes & Prevention

Medically reviewed by Dr. Mavra Farrukh

Overview

There are a lot of concerns from women about gestational diabetes. Are the signs and symptoms of diabetes different in women? What major health issues affect women with diabetes more than men? These questions are thoroughly answered in the following article.

How Does Diabetes Happen?

Diabetes is an energy-releasing affliction that happens when your glucose (more commonly known as blood sugar) is excessive. An excess blood sugar level is called hyperglycemia. Your body uses glucose for energy, and the pancreas manufactures a hormone called insulin. Insulin is responsible for transforming the glucose from your food intake into energy. If not enough insulin, or no insulin at all, is manufactured, glucose won’t be able to reach your cells to be utilized as energy. The resulting condition is diabetes.

The Types of Diabetes

There are two principal types of diabetes, and women are susceptible to both.

  • Type 1 Diabetes. This type was known as juvenile diabetes. It is an autoimmune condition wherein the body cannot manufacture insulin due to the body’s immune system that attacks insulin-manufacturing cells from the pancreas. These insulin-manufacturing cells are called beta cells.
  • Type 2 Diabetes. This type occurs when cells cannot use glucose expeditiously for energy. This happens when glucose becomes too excessive with time, and the cells become unresponsive to insulin.

What is Pre-Diabetes?

It is a condition that usually occurs before type 2 diabetes when your glucose is greater than usual but not that high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Most of the time, pre-diabetes doesn’t have signs and symptoms. That’s why there are no warning signs. Instead, it can be confirmed by getting a blood test. In five years, this condition could result in type 2 diabetes if there are no changes in your diet and lifestyle.

Diabetes Signs and Symptoms Unique to Women

Plenty of type 1 and type 2 diabetes signs and symptoms found in women are pretty much the same as those found in men, but some signs and complications are unique to women.

  • Itching and pain in your vagina, along with vaginal and oral yeast infections. A profusion of the Candida albicans fungus can trigger both vaginal and oral yeast infections. Signs and symptoms of vaginal yeast infections include vaginal itching and pain, vaginal discharge, and aching sexual penetration. Signs and symptoms of oral yeast infections include white spots, redness and soreness, difficulty eating or swallowing, and enlarged and distended red gums or the inside of your cheeks.
  • Sexual function issues like pain, vaginal dryness, or diminished libido. Women who have diabetes could experience lower libido, problems of blood flow to their genital area that can diminish sexual reaction and orgasm, and even nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy that can lead to vaginal dryness and reduced sensation.
  • PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome. This is a prevalent source of female infertility and insulin resistance. It could trigger signs and symptoms like irregular periods, acne, dwindling scalp hair, and a surplus of hair growth on the body and face. Excessive insulin levels also escalate your risk of diabetes and around 50% of women with PCOS contract diabetes.
  • UTIs or urinary tract infections. These infections happen when bacteria enter the urinary tract, like the urethra, ureters, kidneys, and bladder. These are much more prevalent in women than in men and happen more frequently with diabetes because the presence of sugar in the urine serves as a seedbed for bacterial growth.
Do you have symptoms of Diabetes? Talk with a doctor to know more

Gestational Diabetes Linked To Depression, Says Researchers

Diabetes Signs and Symptoms that are Similar for Both Men and Women:

  • Immoderate thirstiness and appetite
  • Numerous and successive urination
  • Decrease or increase in weight
  • Exhaustion
  • Irascibility
  • Obscure and unfocused eyesight
  • Lengthy restoration and recovery from wounds
  • Queasiness
  • Skin diseases
  • Wrinkled parts of the body become darker than usual.
  • Whiffs of fruity, sweet, or acetone on your breath
  • Stinging or desensitizing sensations in your hands or feet

Some problems that could arise from both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are similar, like skin, eye, circulation, hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), ketoacidosis, and amputation.

Diabetes Affecting Women Differently than Men

Men, women and children have chances of getting diabetes, but this condition can pose some unique issues to women. According to a 2007 study, between 1971 and 2000, mortality rates for men with diabetes decreased, but mortality rates for women did not.

Women typically have a greater lifespan than men due to their lower risk of heart disease compared to men, but when they develop diabetes, their risk for heart ailments soars, and as a result, heart attacks are more fatal for women than for men. The following shows other instances of how diabetes affects women separately:

Kidney disease is another problem that results from type 1 and type 2 diabetes and affects women more dynamically, forcibly, and strenuously than men. Depression is also doubly more prevalent in women who have diabetes than in diabetic men.

Women who have diabetes are more susceptible to deficient blood sugar control that could lead to hypoglycemia, obesity, hyperglycemia, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol levels than men who have diabetes.

Here are some of the reasons why both type 1 and type 2 diabetes affect women more fiercely than men:

  • The HDL or good cholesterol level of women with diabetes drops significantly, which yields a higher risk of heart disease.
  • Estrogen is lesser in women with diabetes, and less estrogen is linked with kidney disease.
  • Women who have diabetes possibly get less beneficial health care, specifically for heart disease and heart disease risk factors. This can be seen much more in remote areas where access to health care is scarce.
  • Women who have diabetes usually have PCOS as well, and PCOS is also a risk factor for diabetes and could trigger fertility issues and eventually permanent infertility.

Diabetes in pregnancy

It shouldn’t affect anyone’s pregnancy as long as it’s managed appropriately. For those planning to get pregnant, consult your doctor to manage your blood sugar level adequately before you become pregnant. Get a grasp of how to keep track of and manage your diabetes and blood sugar levels while pregnant.

What is Gestational Diabetes?

It’s the term used when diabetes happens in women while pregnant. The diagnosis usually occurs between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy. Like in type 1 and type 2 diabetes, glucose levels are also excessive. This happens because pregnant women need more glucose to nourish the developing baby.

As a result, your body will need more insulin, and in some cases, other women’s bodies don’t manufacture sufficient insulin to satisfy the need. As a result, glucose levels escalate and lead to gestational diabetes.

Luckily, for most women, gestational diabetes disappears after the baby is born. But, having gestational diabetes makes women more at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Are there different forms of gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes has two forms: 

  • Class A1 gestational diabetes is one that can be managed through diet alone.
  • Class A2 is a form of gestational diabetes where oral medications and insulin are required to manage the condition.

Risks of gestational diabetes

Following are some of the risk factors for gestational diabetes:

  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Ethnicity (risks are higher for Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, Asian Americans, or Pacific Islanders)
  • Age beyond 25
  • Previous gestational diabetes, miscarriage or stillbirth, having a baby that weighs over 9 pounds.
  • PCOS or other health conditions that are linked with insulin issues
  • Issues with insulin or glucose like insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, or pre-diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart ailments

What causes gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes usually results when your body cannot produce the sufficient insulin it requires during pregnancy. Typically, during pregnancy, the body produces larger amounts of some that increase insulin resistance, such as human placental lactogen (hPL).

These hormones develop the placenta and help maintain your pregnancy. As the pregnancy progresses, the quantity of these hormones in the body increases. Resultantly, it can result in insulin resistance. Insulin helps transport glucose out of your blood into your cells, which is used for energy. In pregnancy, more glucose may be available in your bloodstream due to insulin resistance, which can be potentially passed to the baby. 

Consequently, the blood glucose levels may rise abnormally, leading to gestational diabetes.

Signs and Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

You may be symptoms less or you may experience some of these:

  • Presence of sugar in your urine
  • Intensified thirst
  • Recurrent urination
  • Exhaustion
  • Queasiness
  • Obscured and unfocused eyesight
  • Weight loss
  • More infections in your vagina, bladder, and skin

How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?

In order to diagnose gestational diabetes, blood sugar during pregnancy is checked. Glucose tests when pregnant mainly comprise of :

  • Glucose challenge test: Blood sugar levels are checked an hour after making you drink a sweet liquid. A glucose tolerance test is also done if your blood sugar is high. 
  • Glucose tolerance test: If your challenge test results are deranged, an oral glucose tolerance test is done. Fasting for at least 8 hours is required before the tolerance test. Blood is drawn before and after drinking a sweet liquid. The tolerance test helps confirm the diagnosis of gestational diabetes.

How is gestational diabetes managed?

If you have gestational diabetes, you must follow up with your doctor more frequently during your pregnancy. In addition, close monitoring of blood sugar levels is required, which can be done using a glucose meter at home.

Management varies from individual to individual. Some women require medication to manage gestational diabetes. Most women can manage their blood sugar levels with exercise and diet.

Chat with a doctor to find out more about gestational diabetes

How should I change my diet for gestational diabetes?

Modification to your diet will have to manage your condition:

  • Avoid processed foods, junk food and beverages.
  • Eat smaller and more frequent meals.
  • Maintain a proper eating schedule.

How to control gestational diabetes? 

Diet for gestational diabetes

Some recommendations for a gestational diabetes diet include:

  1. Consume fewer carbohydrates at breakfast than other meals as insulin resistance at that time may be at its peak. 
  2. Regulate your meals and do not skip meals, as low blood sugar in pregnancy can create complications. 
  3. Avoid fatty and fried foods.
  4. Consume foods high in fiber, including whole grains, cereals and pasta. 
  5. Drink sufficient water

Complications of gestational diabetes

If your glucose level is high during pregnancy, both the baby and mother have risks and could result to:

  • Giving birth prematurely
  • Laborious delivery or C-section
  • Stillbirth or spontaneous abortion
  • Preeclampsia (which is having high blood pressure and having the presence of protein in your urine)
  • Birth deformities
  • Having an oversized baby
  • Low blood sugar levels in your newborn
  • The skin and eyes of the newborn appear to be yellow
  • Breathing difficulties in the newborn
  • The diabetic eye problems and kidney problems of the mother get worse
  • Urinary or bladder infections happen more frequently

Prevention 

There is no specific way to avoid diabetes during pregnancy altogether. However, lifestyle modifications can help reduce your chances of developing it. Eating a balanced diet and regular exercise can help lower your options if you are at risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy. You mustn’t skip your scheduled appointment with your doctor so that all necessary screenings and evaluations can be carried out throughout pregnancy. 

Gestational diabetes after delivery

In most cases, the blood sugar level normalizes after childbirth. This is primarily because ye placenta is delivered, and the surge of hormones is no longer a factor that causes insulin resistance. However, postpartum gestational diabetes can persist. To ensure that your blood glucose levels have normalized, an oral glucose tolerance test is done 6-12weeks, most believe. Studies indicate that women with gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

Preeclampsia and gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes and preeclampsia are conditions that occur during or just after pregnancy. Gestational diabetes can lead to the development of preeclampsia. This condition is also termed as as pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Preeclampsia is a condition in which the mother suddenly develops high blood pressure during pregnancy, resulting in protein in the urine. This can, in turn, affect the kidneys, brain or liver. This condition can occur at 20 weeks of pregnancy or post-birth. Women who have preeclampsia are at high risk for developing heart complications, blood clots and stroke. 

When to Consult a Doctor About Gestational Diabetes 

If you are wondering how to avoid gestational diabetes or have noticed any signs and symptoms of diabetes, consult with our online doctor at Your Doctors Online. If diabetes remains untreated, severe complications could arise like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, and even nerve damage.

Once you are diagnosed with diabetes, which can be determined by checking your blood sugar levels, you will be guided on a plan to keep it normal. If your diabetes is mild, the doctor will most likely suggest a diet plan accompanied by exercising and weight loss routines. Medications are also prescribed to aid in the reduction of your blood glucose levels. For some women, insulin may be needed.

Chat with a doctor for advice regarding management of Diabetes

FAQs About Gestational Diabetes Answered by Your Doctors Online 

What causes gestational diabetes?

During pregnancy, a woman is more prone to insulin resistance if the body can’t produce sufficient insulin or typically stops using insulin, leading to gestational diabetes. 

Does gestational diabetes disappear on its own?

In most cases, gestational diabetes resolves on its own after delivery. However, a blood sugar test is done 6 to 12 weeks after delivery to ensure that the condition has resolved.

How does gestational diabetes affect the baby?

Some complications that can occur include:
Birth deformities
Breathing difficulties in the newborn
Having an oversized baby
Low blood sugar levels in your newborn
The skin and eyes of the newborn appear to be yellow

What is the average week of delivery with gestational diabetes?

The ideal time of delivery is around 38 to 40 weeks.

What happens if gestational diabetes is not controlled?

Uncontrolled blood sugar levels during pregnancy can lead to complications such as macrosomia, preeclampsia, preterm birth or birth deformities in the child. 

Can gestational diabetes be reversed?

In most cases, the blood sugar level normalizes after childbirth. This is primarily because the placenta is delivered, and the surge of hormones is no longer a factor that causes insulin resistance.

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