Gestational Diabetes: What You Need to Know

Do you know that women have a chance of developing Diabetes during their pregnancy? Yes, it is called Gestational Diabetes Mellitus, and this is not only affect the mother herself, but the baby too. 

In Malaysia, the prevalence of the case is around 25%, means that 1 out of 4 pregnant women is diagnosed with GDM.

How it happens?

During pregnancy, the placenta produce some hormones like estrogen and cortisol, that help to nurture the pregnancy. However, the hormonal changes interfere insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulate blood sugar and turn it into energy.

When the placenta grow bigger, more hormones are being produces, and caused more resistance on insulin. While the insulin produced is not enough to compensate, this results in GDM.

High risk of pregnant lady getting GDM 

Here’s a list that you can check if you’re at the high risk of getting GDM.

  • Women older than 25 years old
  • Overweight of obesity ( BMI > 27kg//m²)
  • Family history of Diabetes
  • Previously diagnosed with GDM
  • Having given birth to an infant weighing more than 4 kg
  • Prediabetes, or having impaired glucose tolerance.
  • Bad obsteric history or currently having obstetric problems (eg pregnancy-induced hypertension, use of corticosteriod etc)

GDM brings some complication to both mother and infant if sugar is not controlled.

Consequences on mothers

  • Mother is at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Mother is  more likely to need a C-section to deliver baby as the baby grows extra large.
  • Mother is at higher risk of getting high blood pressure and preeclampsia, that can be dangerous for mother’s and baby’s life.

Consequences on baby

  • Baby will have a higher risk of becoming obese or develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
  • Macrosomia or an extra large baby
  • May increase the risk of pre-term baby (early delivery)
  • Early-born baby may experience difficulty in breathing as they breathing system is not fully developed yet 
  • Most serious, GDM can result in baby’s death either before or shortly after birth, if not threatened.

How to tackle it?

There is no guarantee to prevent GDM, but you can definitely lowering the risk to as low as possible. Here’s some tips that you can follow.


Make sure you have a healthy weight before pregnancy 

Losing extra weight beforehand (if you are overweight) might reduce the tendency of experiencing insulin resistance. Once pregnant, monitor your weight regularly to ensure it gain in a recommended range.


Stay active

Some people advice pregnant mother to rest as much as they can, but this is actually do more harm than good. Include some pregnant-friendly exercises like brisk walking, yoga, low-impact aerobic dance 30 minutes, for most of the day in a week, helps to reduce chances of getting GDM.


Get an individualized diet 

Talk to your dietitian to have a personalized diet through medical nutrition therapy (MNT). A carbohydrate-controlled meal plan helps in improving glycemic controls and prevent any side effects.


Monitor blood sugar regularly 

Constantly checking helps to determined if your blood sugar level is normal, and will help to reduce symptoms of high and low blood sugar, and avoid unwanted long-term complication.


Medication and insulin

For uncontrolled blood glucose, your doctor might advise on the use of oral medication or insulin injection, with the help of lifestyle and diet changes. If needed, you will be taught by your doctor or nurses on the dose of medication or/and injection techniques.

GDM is something that cannot be taken lightly. It needs to be adjust as quick as possible. A healthy pregnancy assure a healthier growing baby in the future.

Prepared by,
Shiang Jiun

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