Gestational diabetes is a special form of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy. This diabetes occurs because various hormones that are increasingly secreted during pregnancy counteract insulin. If the pancreas then fails to secrete enough insulin to compensate for the effect of the hormones, gestational diabetes results.
Since the disease is caused by the altered hormone balance, it disappears on its own immediately after birth. During pregnancy itself, however, treatment is often necessary to rule out risks for the mother and, above all, the unborn child.
Particularly at risk are overweight pregnant women and those with a family history of diabetes. But also pregnant women over 30 years of age, pregnant women who have already suffered from gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies, who have gained an extreme amount of weight during pregnancy, who have already had a stillbirth or a child with a birth weight of over 4000 g belong to the risk group.
This disease occurs in up to five percent of all pregnant women, usually in the last trimester of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes can be detected by simple tests. Especially if risk factors indicate an increased likelihood of the disease, such a test should be done early in pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes can cause the placenta not to develop properly, so the baby will not be nourished adequately and, in the worst case, will die. More often, however, diabetes causes the mother’s blood glucose level to rise, and the child’s blood glucose level to rise as well, causing the child to grow too large and too heavy. The child’s organism tries to get the high blood sugar level under control and secretes a lot of insulin.
This can go well until birth, but without the supply of sugar through the maternal bloodstream, the newborn falls into hypoglycemia. Lung malformations are also not uncommon, which then cause breathing problems after birth. Other organs also often do not mature properly because of the excessively high blood sugar level.
In the pregnant woman herself, gestational diabetes increases the risk of inflammation, blood pressure, and pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia can lead to premature birth.
In most cases, gestational diabetes can be treated by a change in diet, accompanied by plenty of exercises. Only as a further measure is a treatment with insulin prescribed.