What is gestational diabetes and how is it managed?
When type 1 or type 2 diabetes occurs prior to pregnancy it is labeled as "pre-existing diabetes". On the other hand, "gestational diabetes" refers to the onset of diabetes for the first time during pregnancy.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy changes a woman's insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a hormone that assists your body in using sugar (glucose) for energy. Due to the many physiological changes occurring in the body of a pregnant woman, the body requires a greater level of insulin to control the level of the glucose in the blood. You can develop gestational diabetes when your body cannot manage this increased need for insulin.
The oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) is used at around weeks 24-28 of pregnancy to diagnose gestational diabetes, however women with certain risk factors may undergo this testing earlier to rule out the possibility of undiagnosed pre-existing diabetes.
Once a diagnosis has been established, the focus turns to managing the glucose levels to prevent adverse health outcomes for the mother and baby. Gestational diabetes increases the likelihood of a baby large for gestational age and macrosomia (high birth weight), hypertensive disorders such as preeclampsia, polyhydramnios (excess amniotic fluid), stillbirth and neonatal morbidity. In the long term, women with gestational diabetes have increased risk for later development of type 2 diabetes and the newborn may have an increased risk of developing obesity and diabetes later in life.
While this list of potential risks and complications sounds extreme, it is important to keep in mind that by following the guideline lifestyle interventions for gestational diabetes management, the likelihood of these complications occurring is significantly reduced.
Lifestyle modification is the first line of treatment for gestational diabetes. Lifestyle modification includes nutritional invention, physical activity and weight management. This treatment needs to be carefully tailored for the individual, with digital health solutions like Velmio offering an efficient method for patients and doctors to monitor the effects of lifestyle modification on the blood glucose levels.
Clinical studies support lifestyle modifications such as nutrition therapy as an effective means for reducing the rate of adverse health outcomes in newborns born to patients with gestational diabetes. Studies also support better glucose control, improved quality of life and reduced rates of postnatal depression in women following the suggested lifestyle interventions for gestational diabetes management.