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Understanding gestational diabetes

A recent study found that gestational diabetes is still a major problem for women around the globe. The BBC reported on a study where women with major risk factors of gestational diabetes did not receive proper screenings from doctors. Those risk factors include being of Black Caribbean or South Asian ethnicity and having a high BMI.

It is paramount that all pregnant women understand the dangers of gestational diabetes. Failure to take action could result in significant complications with the pregnancy, including the loss of the infant's life. Women who believe they could be at risk should inform their doctors and take the proper steps to lower their risk.

How gestational diabetes affects women

Pregnant women with gestational diabetes have a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later. Women can control this risk if they maintain a healthy body weight, exercise and eat healthy foods. Another potential risk is preeclampsia. This is a significant health complication. Preeclampsia raises a woman's risk of: 

  • HELLP syndrome
  • Blood vessel and heart disease
  • Drop in blood flow to the placenta
  • Placental abruption

How gestational diabetes affects the fetus

Infants can develop several health issues if the mother and her doctor fail to treat the condition promptly. When gestational diabetes occurs, the woman's pancreas has to work extra hard to produce insulin. As a result, the fetus' pancreas also needs to work extra hard to produce sufficient levels of insulin. This can cause the infant to develop fetal macrosomia. People sometimes refer to this as "fat baby" syndrome. Overweight babies are at a greater risk of developing birth injuries, including shoulder dystocia. When the mother has high blood sugar throughout the pregnancy, there is also a greater risk of premature birth. Doctors may not automatically test for this disease, so the expectant mother should fight for as much testing as she believes she needs. 

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