It can be scary to hear that you have gestational diabetes during your pregnancy. Even in healthy women who eat well, exercise, and have no history of diabetes, gestational diabetes can develop during pregnancy. In most cases, gestational diabetes can be controlled without complications. However, if gestational diabetes is not treated or monitored, it can increase the risk of other childbirth complications.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is the development of high blood sugar levels in a woman during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women who did not have diabetes before pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is not uncommon and affects up to 10% of pregnant women. In most cases, gestational diabetes can be controlled but it can increase the risk of certain complications, which may cause harm to the mother or baby.
Diabetes is a medical condition involving high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period of time. In gestational diabetes, the blood sugar imbalance is generally limited to the pregnancy. Gestational diabetes develops because of lower insulin levels or insulin resistance. Any degree of glucose intolerance with onset during pregnancy is classified as gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes may be classified based on glucose tolerance. Type A1 may show an abnormal oral glucose tolerance test (high blood sugar) but blood sugar returns to normal after fasting. Type A2 gestational diabetes shows a high blood sugar reading after an oral glucose tolerance test and the blood sugar remains elevated after fasting.
Most women with gestational diabetes show no signs or symptoms of the condition. Women who do show symptoms may exhibit:
- Increased urination
- Feeling thirsty
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Bladder infection
- Yeast infection
Risk Factors for Gestational Diabetes
Any pregnant woman may develop gestational diabetes. In some cases, the woman may already have diabetes before pregnancy but it has never been previously diagnosed. However, there are risk factors that increase the likelihood that the woman may develop gestational diabetes, which include:
- Previous gestational diabetes
- Previous birth of a large baby
- Family history of diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Over the age of 25
- Father over the age of 55
Gestational diabetes is generally tested for between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. The test may involve consuming a sugary substance to raise the blood sugar and then testing the blood after to see how the body processed the sugar levels. If the test is higher than a certain level, a further glucose test may be done to show the patient's blood sugar levels.
Treating and Monitoring Gestational Diabetes
After diagnosing gestational diabetes, the first steps to treating and managing the condition involve testing and lifestyle changes. Patients with gestational diabetes may be asked to check their blood sugar levels multiple times a day and report the findings to the doctor. A doctor may also conduct blood tests and urine tests to make sure the diabetes is under control.
Lifestyle changes include maintaining a healthy diet and exercise. A healthy diet includes reducing the intake of sugary foods and processed foods, including cookies, candy, and desserts. Patients should limit their portion sizes, eat more fruits and vegetables, and whole grain foods.
Pregnant women may find it difficult to maintain an exercise schedule throughout pregnancy but regular exercise can help keep gestational diabetes under control. Patients should aim for aerobic and resistance exercise at a moderate intensify for 30 to 60 minutes at least 3 times a week.
When exercise and diet are not enough to control the blood sugar levels, a doctor may prescribe medication or insulin injections.
In most cases, gestational diabetes will clear up after the baby is born. However, women with gestational diabetes may be at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The risk of developing diabetes mellitus (DM)
Dangers of Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes may increase the risk of other pregnancy conditions and injuries to the mother and baby. For the mother, there may be an increased risk of pre-eclampsia or require a Caesarean section (C-section) delivery. Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes may be larger, have low blood sugar after birth, and have jaundice. Neonates with low blood sugar, jaundice, low blood calcium and magnesium, and other complications may require admission to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)
If the baby is too large, known as fetal macrosomia, it can cause labor complications. This can cause the baby to be trapped in the birth canal, causing possible injuries including shoulder dystocia. A doctor may use a vacuum device or forceps to deliver the child, which could increase the risk of head trauma and brain injury. The mother may also be at risk of uterine rupture or hemorrhage.
Children born after gestational diabetes in the mother have a higher risk of obesity in childhood and as an adult. These children may also be more likely to develop DM later in life.
Failure to Treat and Monitor Gestational Diabetes
Healthcare professionals are supposed to understand the risks associated with gestational diabetes. Care during pregnancy generally includes testing and monitoring for gestational diabetes. If a doctor fails to properly test, treat, and monitor gestational diabetes, they may be putting the mother and baby at a greater risk of injury.
When a doctor fails to provide the standard level of care which causes injury or harm to the patient, it may be considered medical malpractice. In a medical malpractice lawsuit, the injury victim or their family can file a claim against the negligent doctors, hospitals, and other parties who are liable for the injuries. The injury victim can receive compensation for their injuries, including pain and suffering, medical expenses, and cost of future care.
Gestational Diabetes Malpractice Lawsuits
Even though gestational diabetes is not unusual, it is still important for your doctor to take it seriously and provide proper guidance, treatment, and monitoring. If medical mistakes by your doctor or hospital caused injury to yourself or your child during pregnancy, talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney about your options for recovery. Do not hesitate to contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.