According to the Australian Diabetes in Pregnancy Society, around 5% of Australian women, or one woman in every 20, are diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
It is detected during pregnancy, when your body cannot cope with the extra demand for insulin production which results in high blood glucose levels. After the baby is born, gestational diabetes usually disappears, however women who’ve had gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
So what is gestational diabetes and how do you manage the condition if you’re diagnosed?
Gestational diabetes often has no obvious symptoms, but you may be more thirsty or tired than usual, or experience thrush or increased urination.
It is most commonly found during the last 12 weeks of pregnancy, as the pregnancy hormone levels rise further.
In Australia, gestational diabetes is detected through an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). The drink tastes similar to a sweet cordial and will NOT harm you or your baby.
While the test itself is pretty easy to manage - it does take a long time, so expect to be at the pathologist’s office for at least two hours.
While gestational diabetes can occur in women with no known risk factors, there are circumstances than can increase your chance of developing the condition.
Diabetes Australia lists the following risk factors:
- Being 40 years old or over
- Having had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- Having a family history of type 2 diabetes or a first-degree relative who had gestational diabetes
- Being above the healthy weight range
- Having previously had elevated blood glucose levels
- Are First Nations women
- Are from an African, Melanesian, Polynesian, South Asian, Chinese, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic or South American background
- Have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Have previously given birth to a large baby (weighing more than 4.5kgs)
- Are currently taking some types of anti-psychotic or steroid medications.
While being diagnosed with gestational diabetes can be upsetting, the good news is that the majority of women go on to have a healthy pregnancy, normal delivery and healthy baby.
But it is important to make sure you manage your condition because if your blood glucose levels remain high, it may result in problems such as a large baby, miscarriage and stillbirth. Other complications may include premature delivery and emergency caesarean.
Prevention and management
Many women can manage their gestational diabetes through lifestyle choices such as a healthy diet, regular exercise and monitoring and maintaining blood glucose levels.
Diabetes Queensland has great advice on food swaps and meal plans to manage gestational diabetes.
If you need a blood glucose meter, your Ramsay Pharmacist can help you understand the device and give you target levels to achieve during your pregnancy.
Some women will require medication and insulin injections which will be advised by your doctor or obstetrician.