Gestational diabetes is diabetes that a previously non-diabetic woman develops during her pregnancy. It is characterized by high blood sugar levels. This condition is not very common occurring in 4% of all pregnancies.
How will you know you have gestational diabetes? There are two ways: One is through its symptoms that will tell you that have this condition. The second way to confirm is through a blood test that will show your raised blood sugar levels.
Usually, gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) produces no symptoms or at times, symptoms are of mild nature. There are no presenting signs and the woman may not feel anything unusual in her.
In the absence of symptoms, her high blood sugar is detected when she is routinely tested for GDM. Gestational diabetes is diagnosed through a test called the oral glucose tolerance test
When symptoms do set in, they are similar to the symptoms of diabetes mellitus type 2 due to hyperglycemia.
When do gestational diabetes symptoms start?
Gestational diabetes symptoms do not set in early during pregnancy. Therefore, you will not see any of the GDM signs in the first trimester. It usually sets in during the second half of pregnancy.
The pregnant woman is, therefore, usually screened for gestational diabetes between weeks 24 to 28 of her gestation.
However, if the woman exhibits risk factors that make her prone to gestational diabetes, then she is usually screened during the first trimester.
If you have been detected with high blood sugar levels in the first trimester, then in all probability, you were diabetic even before you became pregnant. You will then have the symptoms of diabetes early in pregnancy during the first trimester.
Being a find more of the later months of pregnancy, the symptoms that you will see of this condition are seen to arise during the second and third trimesters.
And these signs and symptoms are restricted as long as the pregnancy lasts because once you give birth to your baby, your blood sugar returns to normal levels and gestational diabetes goes away. This happens in 90% of women.
But, while it is there during gestation, it should be treated or it can cause complications for the mother and the baby.
However, the chances of birth defects in infants whose mothers have gestational diabetes are minimal because most pregnant women develop gestational diabetes after the 20th week of pregnancy when the fetus is already fully developed.
Gestational diabetes symptoms during pregnancy
Some of the common symptoms that the woman may experience are listed below:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Craving for food
- Severe headaches
- Weight gain or weight loss despite increased appetite
- Blurring of vision and seeing bright flashes in front of the eyes.
- Unexplained fatigue
- Frequent episodes of infections especially of the skin, vagina, and bladder.
- A larger baby due to GDM can increase the back pain of pregnancy, especially during the last months of pregnancy.
- Hypoglycemia symptoms: Women who take insulin shots for their gestational diabetes are at risk of low blood sugar levels, especially if they have skipped a meal, exercised too much or have taken extra insulin. Symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) include sweating, shakiness, hunger, blurred vision, and dizziness.
Gestational diabetes symptom after birth: Depression
Emotionally, the postpartum period can be very trying for all mothers. Postpartum depression is seen in about 10 to 14 percent of all pregnancies and peaks at three to four months after childbirth. It can be mild or severe.
But, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, women who experienced gestational diabetes during their pregnancy were at a higher risk; which is almost double.
GDM is considered an independent risk factor for postpartum depression more so in first-time mothers.
Symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Lack of sleep
- Fear of harm to the baby
Gestational diabetes can be treated and the mother need not worry about her pregnancy or her baby. Most babies born under such conditions are normal. The mother should follow a disciplined lifestyle sticking to a healthy gestational diabetes diet, exercising regularly, and taking her medication religiously.