Also known as gestational diabetes mellitus or diabetes in pregnancy, is a disorder that affects only pregnant women: if a woman gets diabetes for the first time in her life during pregnancy, it is gestational diabetes.Under normal conditions, the stomach and intestines assimilate the carbohydrates contained in foods, turning them into a sugar called glucose, the latter being the main source of energy in our body. After digestion, glucose is absorbed into the blood and is thus able to supply energy to the body.
To extract glucose from the blood and make it usable by the body’s cells, the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin ; if you are suffering from diabetes the body does not produce enough insulin, or the cells do not use it as they should, but the result is in any case that glucose accumulates in the blood with the risk of dangerous complications for mother and fetus.
Gestational diabetes occurs when the body is no longer able to produce enough insulin to compensate for the increased demand typical of pregnancy and thus compensate for high blood glucose levels.
During pregnancy the body produces special hormones and goes through other changes, such as weight gain; because of these transformations, the body’s cells lose the ability to effectively use insulin ( insulin resistance ).
All pregnant women exhibit a certain degree of resistance to the action of insulin, but in most cases, the body is able to compensate by increasing its production; in women where this does not happen, therefore, an increase in the circulating glucose values that leads to the diagnosis of gestational diabetes is observed.
Overweight before pregnancy is the most important risk factor, as is an excessive weight gain in the first months of gestation; affecting the genesis of the disorder also contributes to the familiarity, an aspect that leads us to think that there may be some underlying genetic predisposition.
Women with polycystic ovaries are at greater risk of developing the disorder.
What are symptoms of Gestational diabetes
Although gestational diabetes often does not manifest itself with obvious symptoms, the following conditions should be considered:
- unjustified increase in thirst,
– unjustified increase in the amount of urine produced,
– weight loss despite increased hunger,
– nausea and vomiting, however very common in pregnancy and therefore not very significant,
frequent infections (eg cystitis, candidiasis,…),
– visual disturbances.
How is gestational diabetes treated?
Many women with gestational diabetes have normal pregnancies and healthy children because they scrupulously follow the therapy recommended by their doctor. Every woman should have a specific therapy for her needs, but it is advisable to follow some general advice to have a healthy life despite gestational diabetes:
Know what your blood sugar is and keep it under control. If blood tests are done, your blood sugar is known and it is easier to keep it at normal levels. It is necessary to analyze a drop of blood several times a day to find out the blood sugar level.
Follow a healthy diet. — Your doctor can provide you with a tailor-made diet for you; carbohydrate limitation is usually an important part of a healthy diet for women with gestational diabetes because carbohydrates increase blood sugar, but it is important to note that they should not be eliminated from the diet. The trick is instead of knowing how to choose, favouring the integral ones (bread and wholemeal pasta, for example) and giving up sweets.
Do moderate but regular physical activity. –Exercise can help keep blood glucose levels under control, your gynaecologist can advise you on the most appropriate activities and the most appropriate level of exercise.
Keeping the weight. The number of pounds you can take without your health is affected depends on how much you weighed before pregnancy. It is important to keep the total and weekly weight gain under control.
Write down every day what you eat, how much physical activity you do and the glucose levels. Women with gestational diabetes should keep a daily diary in which to write: the value of blood sugar, physical activity and all that they eat and drink. In this way, it is possible to understand if the therapy is effective and if it is necessary to make changes.
Some women with gestational diabetes will need to take insulin to manage their disease.– Additional insulin can help lower the blood sugar level. Some women may also need to do the urinalysis to check if they are absorbing enough glucose.