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Gestational diabetes is diabetes that develops in non-diabetic women during their pregnancy. In the United States, at least 3 in every 100 pregnant women are said to have this disorder. Diabetes is a common disease wherein the pancreas no longer produces insulin or fails to produce insulin properly.
Diabetes in pregnancy usually begins 24 weeks into the pregnancy and disappears after the infant has been delivered. A pregnant woman often produces enough insulin. In this type of diabetes, however, insulin is blocked partially by other hormones produced during pregnancy. This is called insulin resistance. Another factor that may lead to this condition is weight gain which is frequently seen in pregnant women.
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Several factors predispose women to develop diabetes during their pregnancy. For example, overweight women and those who are 25 years old and above are more at risk of having this diabetes. Those who have a family history of diabetes and those whose previous pregnancy was terminated due to unexplained miscarriage or stillbirth are also at high risk for this condition. Other factors include previously delivering a large child, having high blood pressure and being diagnosed with diabetes while pregnant before.
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Symptoms are usually mild and may not even manifest. Some women may however, experience blurry vision, frequent thirst and urination, fatigue, weight loss and vaginal infections. Because diabetes can cause complications such as hypertension in the mother, difficulty in delivery due to a large baby, and breathing problems in the child, it is often necessary to test pregnant women for the condition even if they do not present with any symptoms.
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Diagnosis of diabetes of pregnancy is commonly done through a glucose tolerance test. The said examination is performed during the 24th to the 28th week of pregnancy. For pregnant women considered high risk, doctors may perform the said test as early as third month of the pregnancy.
In the tolerance test the patient has to drink a glucose solution. After an hour, a blood sample is taken from the patient to check for the glucose level. When the reading is a glucose level of no more than 140 mg/dl, the patient is considered not to have diabetes.
However, if the glucose level rises above 140 mg/dl, the patient has to go through another test. The next examination lasts for three hours. It involves taking a diet of a minimum of 150 grams of carbohydrates three days before the examination. At least 10 hours before the pregnant woman undergoes the test, she should not drink or eat anything but water. An adequate blood sample is then taken to determine the fasting sugar level. The patient then drinks the glucose solution. Afterwards, blood samples will have to be taken every hour for the next three hours. The test results will be compared with the normal values. In case two or more sugar levels are higher compared to the normal values, the mother is considered to have diabetes of pregnancy.
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One way of preventing gestational diabetes is to maintain ideal weight once pregnancy is planned. For those with high risk factors, early and regular prenatal check-up usually help them improve their general health during pregnancy.
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Better Health Channel: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/Bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Gestational_diabetes?open