Gestational diabetes poses significant risks to both expectant mothers and their developing babies. Understanding the causes, risk factors and management strategies for gestational diabetes is crucial for promoting the well-being of expectant mothers and ensuring optimal health outcomes for their babies.
Gestational diabetes is defined as a variable intolerance to carbohydrates that arises during pregnancy, independent of insulin administration or dosage, as reported by IMSS. The hormones produced by the placenta play a significant role in supporting fetal growth but can also hinder the mother's insulin function, resulting in insulin resistance, according to the American Diabetes Association. As a consequence, the mother's body faces challenges in effectively using insulin, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. In some cases, higher insulin levels may be required to compensate for this issue. Insufficient insulin production or utilization contributes to hyperglycemia, the accumulation of sugar in the blood.
Although the exact causes of gestational diabetes remain unknown, certain risk factors have been identified. Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, pre-diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome and a family history of diabetes are among the factors that increase the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes, according to Mayo Clinic.
About 21.1 million live births in 2021, which is equivalent to 16.7% of total births, were affected by hyperglycemia during pregnancy, according to the International Diabetes Federation. This condition is more commonly observed in low and middle-income countries where access to maternal healthcare is limited. Moreover, Latin American women with a history of gestational diabetes face a considerable risk of developing Type 2 diabetes within five years after pregnancy and about 47% of these women develop the disease, as reported by CNEGSR.
Maintaining metabolic health during pregnancy is essential for managing and preventing gestational diabetes. A comprehensive approach involves adopting a healthy diet, engaging in regular physical activity, ensuring sufficient sleep, reducing and managing stress levels and addressing any mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression, according to Mexico’s Ministry of Health. Through these lifestyle modifications, pregnant women can effectively manage their blood sugar levels and reduce the risks associated with gestational diabetes.
Early detection of gestational diabetes is crucial for minimizing potential complications. Regular prenatal check-ups, including glucose tolerance tests, are essential for identifying and managing diabetes in pregnant women. The Ministry of Health emphasizes the significance of early detection and appropriate treatment to mitigate the associated risks. By raising awareness about the importance of diabetes management during pregnancy, healthcare providers and expectant mothers can work together to improve maternal and fetal health outcomes.