Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a type of diabetes which develops during pregnancy. Most of the time, women will no longer have the condition once the baby has been born; however, some women can continue to have higher levels of blood glucose levels after their delivery.
GDM is diagnosed when pregnant women display higher than normal blood glucose levels, usually in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. The condition can create problems for both the mother and baby, but regular check-ups and treatments can give women a better chance of having healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.
Natural hormones which are secreted by the placenta during pregnancy can increase the body’s resistance to insulin; therefore your body’s cells are unable to respond normally to insulin. As a result, your body requires more insulin than usual to allow the body’s cells to take up glucose from the blood after eating. If extra insulin is unavailable, then glucose will stay in the bloodstream for longer and give a high glucose reading in blood tests.
Doctors and health experts usually recommend that women who have developed GDM take another glucose tolerance test six to twelve weeks after delivery to ensure that their blood glucose levels have returned back to normal. In some cases, women will still have high blood sugar levels after they have given birth and will most likely have developed underlying Type 2 diabetes.
Risk Factors for Gestational Diabetes Mellitus
In Australia alone, between 10-15% of pregnancies are affected by GDM. Women of ethnic backgrounds such as Australian Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Asian, Middle Eastern, and African ethnicities are at a higher risk of developing GDM than women who are of Anglo-Celtic backgrounds.
Other factors which increase the risk of gestational diabetes include;
- Being overweight or obese
- A family history of diabetes
- Developing GDM in a previous pregnancy
- Being over the age of forty years
- Medical conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Medications which affect blood sugar levels (including corticosteroids and antipsychotic medications)
- Previously having a large baby who is over 4.5kg in weight
- Have rapidly gained weight in the first half of pregnancy
Symptoms Of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus
GDM does not always present with typical and predictable symptoms; therefore it is increasingly important to undergo diabetes testing during pregnancy between 24 – 28 weeks. Women who have some of the diabetes risk factors as mentioned above may be offered testing earlier, even as early as the first antenatal visit around ten weeks.
Women who do end up developing symptoms of GDM may experience;
- Extreme fatigue
- Feeling thirsty all the time
- The need to pass urine more often
- Symptoms of recurrent infections such as thrush
It is recommended that if you experience any of these symptoms at any stage of your pregnancy, you should discuss with your healthcare provider and be tested for diabetes.