Diabetes can be particularly challenging for women. Aside from the complications of coronary heart disease and depression, diabetes can also cause eating disorders and sexual health problems in women. Many women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) also have diabetes leading to researches relating ability (or inability) to produce the hormone insulin with PCOS. But perhaps what makes women’s diabetes different compared to men is gestational diabetes (GDM) which only affects pregnant women.
GDM is found to develop in 18% of pregnancies but disappears after the pregnancy is over. What makes GDM hard is that it affects both the mother and the child. It can cause difficulties in a pregnancy resulting to a miscarriage or a baby born with birth defects. Adding injury to insult is the fact that women who have had GDM is at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Although it is not exactly clear how GDM develops; the theory is that the hormones in the placenta prevents the use of insulin in the mother’s body causing insulin resistance and consequently an elevated blood glucose and hyperglycemia. Excess glucose can cross over to the baby via the placenta and cause elevated blood glucose. The increase in blood glucose causes the pancreas of the baby to produce more insulin to convert glucose to energy. Since the baby does not require much energy for growth and development; the excess energy is stored as fat. This gives rise to “fat” baby during birth which puts it also at high risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.
GDM is common and can be treated. The key is to treat it early to prevent its adverse effects on the baby and the mother. The treatment’s objective is to keep the blood glucose level in the levels of women who are not pregnant and without diabetes. The treatment includes specialized meal plans and regular physical activities. Since the aim is to control blood glucose, daily blood glucose monitoring is also necessary. When needed, doctors may also prescribe insulin injections which could either be via an insulin syringe or insulin pens.
Timely and effective treatment of gestational diabetes does not only prevent complications on both the mother and the baby but it also lowers the risk of giving birth via caesarian section due to a large or fat baby. Since GDM puts a mother at risk of type 2 diabetes after pregnancy; lifestyle changes are absolutely necessary for prevention of type 2 diabetes. First is maintaining a healthy weight and maintaining a healthy meal plan even after pregnancy. GDM is surely something to be concerned about but it is something that can be treated.