gestinational diabetes gold coast doctors
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  • Pregnancy
  • 09.02.24

Understanding gestational diabetes during pregnancy – with Endocrinologist, Dr Aakansha Zala

Gestational diabetes is a condition that can affect pregnant women, but with proper care and management, it can be effectively controlled to ensure a healthy pregnancy. 

In this article, we hear from our highly-qualified endocrinologist, Dr Aakansha Zala to explore what gestational diabetes is, its risk factors, and how it can be managed to ensure the well-being of both the mother and the baby.

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. While the exact cause is not fully understood, it is believed to be related to hormonal changes that affect insulin sensitivity. 

Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. When the body can’t produce enough insulin to meet the increased demands of pregnancy, it results in elevated blood sugar levels, leading to gestational diabetes.

Risk factors for gestational diabetes

Several factors can increase the risk of developing gestational diabetes, including:

  • Family history: If you have a family history of diabetes, especially among close relatives, you may be at a higher risk.
  • Age: Women over the age of 30 are at a higher risk.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese before pregnancy increases the risk.
  • Previous gestational diabetes: If you had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy, your risk is higher.
  • Ethnic background: Some ethnic groups, such as African American, Hispanic, Asian, Maori, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and Native American women, have a higher risk.
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome.
  • Pre-diabetes.

The importance of diagnosis

Gestational diabetes can often be asymptomatic, which is why routine screening is essential during pregnancy. If left unmanaged, it can lead to various complications for both the mother and the baby, including:

  • Excessive birth weight: High blood sugar levels can lead to the baby growing larger than average, making delivery more complicated.
  • Low blood sugar in your newborn: After birth, the baby may experience low blood sugar levels.
  • Preterm birth: Women with gestational diabetes may be more likely to deliver their babies early.
  • Preeclampsia: This is a condition characterised by high blood pressure and organ damage. It is more common in women with gestational diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes risk: Women who have had gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Pregnancy exercise

How to manage gestational diabetes

The good news is that gestational diabetes can be managed effectively through a combination of lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication. Here are some key strategies for managing gestational diabetes:

  • Diet: A registered dietitian can help create a meal plan that regulates blood sugar levels. This typically includes controlling carbohydrate intake.
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity can help improve insulin sensitivity. Your healthcare provider can guide you on safe exercise during pregnancy.
  • Monitoring: Monitoring your blood sugar levels regularly is crucial. You’ll likely need to check your levels before and after meals.
  • Medication: In some cases, metformin or insulin may be prescribed to control blood sugar levels.
  • Regular prenatal care: Attend all your prenatal appointments to ensure your healthcare provider can monitor your health and the baby’s development closely.

Gestational diabetes can be a concern during pregnancy, but with proper care and management, most women with the condition have healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy babies. If you suspect you may be at risk or have gestational diabetes, it’s important to discuss it with your healthcare provider. 

Endocrinology input is recommended if medical treatment is required.  Together, you can develop a personalised plan to ensure the best outcome for you and your baby. Remember that early diagnosis and proactive management are key to a successful pregnancy.

You will need a referral to make an appointment with our Grace Private endocrinologist Dr Aakansha Zala, so remember to ‘Ask for Grace’ when you see your doctor.

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