Gestational Diabetes Effects On Baby | Causes & Treatment

Gestational Diabetes Effects On Baby

Babies born to mothers with poorly treated gestational diabetes(GD) are at increased risk of being too large, having low blood sugar after birth, and jaundice.

If untreated, it can also result in a stillbirth. Long term, children are at higher risk of being overweight and developing type 2 diabetes. To know the effect of GD on babies in detail, let us know what is gestational diabetes?

Gestational Diabetes

gestational diabetes effects on baby

Gestational diabetes or diabetes during pregnancy is a condition in which a woman who has no diabetes develops symptoms of high blood glucose levels during pregnancy. These develop symptoms increase the risk of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), depression, and increase the chances of Caesarean section.

Statistics Of Diabetes During Pregnancy

Diabetes during pregnancy affects 3–9% of pregnancies, depending on the population studied. It is especially common during the third trimester of pregnancy

It affects 1% of those under the age of 20 and 13% of those over the age of 44.  Asians, American Indians, Indigenous Australians, and Pacific Islanders are at higher risk. In 90% of women gestational diabetes resolves after the baby is born. 

Women, however, are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. source:

Gestational Diabetes Causes

During pregnancy, the placenta makes certain hormones that emphasize the buildup of glucose in your blood.

Usually, your pancreas makes enough insulin (Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose move from your bloodstream into your body’s cells, where it’s used as energy) and can handle the increased level of glucose in the blood.

If it cannot able do so, your blood sugar levels will rise and cause gestational diabetes.

Other causes of gestational diabetes:

Diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes

Diagnosis may possible only by blood glucose test. For those at normal risk, screening is recommended between 24th and 28th weeks of gestation. 

For those at high risk or have previous or family history testing may occur at the first prenatal visit. Your doctor may itself recommend if you have a pre-planned pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes usually develops after the mid of second trimester or beginning of third-trimester pregnancy.

Gestational Diabetes Signs And Symptoms

Gestational Diabetes Signs And Symptoms

Gestational diabetes has no noticeable sign and symptoms. Increased in thirst and its frequency or increased urinary frequency may be noticed sometimes. Thus, screening tests are so important to diagnose gestational diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes Levels

Gestational diabetes is diagnosed by blood sugar tests. The test is being conducted between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy.

If you have risk factors or the previous history is known, your doctor may advise testing earlier in the pregnancy.

Blood testing confirms the diagnosis. A screening does through blood glucose test (OGTT) after drinking a sugary beverage and having your blood drawn later to check the glucose levels.

In Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) a two-hour test that checks your blood glucose levels 2 hours after you drink a special sweet drink. It indicates your doctor that how your body processes sugar.

The normal blood glucose level should be less than 140 mg/dl, higher on 140 mg/dl will identify 80% of women with gestational diabetes.

If your sugar level is more than 140mg/dl your doctor might recommend you for fasting (not eating anything for at least 8 hours) blood glucose test.

If your fasting blood glucose level is elevated (above normal) during the test, you have gestational diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association has set the fasting blood sugar normal levels is 92 mg/dl.

Complications From Gestational Diabetes

If you have gestational diabetes, some complications to your baby may occur:

  • Excessive birth weight: Extra sugar in your bloodstream crosses the placenta, which stimulates your baby’s pancreas to make extra insulin.

This effect on the baby the abnormal size growth (macrosomia). The baby may increase up to 9 pounds of weight or more.

This may increase the risk to the stuck baby at birth canal hence birth injuries may occur or it can lead to C-Section birth.

Risk Of Stillbirth With Gestational Diabetes
  • Early (preterm) birth: Gestational diabetes may increase the risk of early labor and the mother may deliver her baby before the baby’s due date, because of the baby’s large size.

Sometimes gestational diabetes may lead to stillbirth (birth at 20th week).

  • Respiratory distress syndrome Preterm birth may cause respiratory distress syndrome — a condition of gestational diabetes that affects babies to makes breathing difficult.

Babies with this syndrome may require parallel respiratory support to their lungs mature and become stronger. Even mothers, who born this child may experience respiratory distress syndrome even if they’re not born early.

  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia): Sometimes babies of mothers with gestational diabetes develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or jaundice shortly after birth because their own insulin production is high.

The intense level of low blood sugar may provoke seizures in the baby. Prompt feedings and sometimes an intravenous glucose solution may need to normalize the baby’s blood sugar level.

  • Type 2 diabetes later in life: Babies of mothers have gestational diabetes are at higher risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes later in their life.

If Untreated, the unacceptable results of gestational diabetes may be seen, in the form of baby’s death either before or shortly after birth.

Diabetes During Pregnancy What To Eat

Diabetes During Pregnancy What To Eat

Diet during pregnancy plays a very important role in diabetes. Healthy and controlled diet may not only keep you healthy but will help you to control your glucose level in blood.

Here are some suggestions that may help you to control your diabetes during pregnancy:

  1. Eat protein with every meal.
  2. Include daily fruits and vegetables in your diet.
  3. Thirty percent or less of your diet should be made up of fat.
  4. Limit or avoid processed foods.
  5. Pay attention to portion sizes to avoid overeating

Here are few healthy choices for snacks and meals that you can follow if you have gestational diabetes:

  • Fresh or frozen vegetables
  • Steamed vegetables
  • Eggs or egg whites
  • Unsweetened Greek yogurt
  • Oatmeal
  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Fresh fruit
  • Skinless chicken breasts
  • Baked fish

How To Prevent Gestational Diabetes?

How To Prevent Gestational Diabetes

Prevention of gestational diabetes can be done by maintaining a healthy weight and exercising before pregnancy. 

Most pregnant women are able to manage their blood sugar by exercising and controlled diet. Affected women are recommended to take a blood sugar test four times a day.

Breastfeeding is recommended to start just after the birth, if possible.

How To Treat Gestational Diabetes?

The treatment of gestational diabetes depends on the levels of your blood glucose. Usually, it resolves after the baby is born.

Diet and exercise may help to treat gestational diabetes. In some cases, Your doctor may recommend the medication like metformin or insulin to lower your blood sugar level.


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