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Gestational Diabetes - what you need to know

By Juliet Efalola Thomas

Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar (glucose) that develops during pregnancy and normally disappear after giving birth. This can occur at any phase of pregnancy, but is more common in the second or third trimester. It happens when the body of a pregnant woman cannot provide enough insulin (which, helps control blood sugar levels) to meet extra needs in pregnancy.

Regardless of the seriousness of Gestational Diabetes, lack of knowledge and information about it cause less attention to be paid to it. That brings us to the question; who's at risk of it? One should note that any woman can develop gestational diabetes but the risk increases if you:

  • are overweight

  • had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy.

  • have family history of diabetes.

  • previously had a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds.

It is seldomly discussed but can cause problems for both mother and child during pregnancy and even after birth. How do you know you've developed gestational diabetes? The only way to confirm for sure is to get screened. The screening test is called an Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT).

Easier said than done, testing in countries like Sierra Leone is not routine hence it is important to pay attention to some of the symptoms and ensure you request a test to validate the symptoms. Some of the symptoms of gestational diabetes include:

  • Unusual thirst.

  • Sugar in the urine (detected by test).

  • Frequent urination in large amounts as compared to frequent light urination during early pregnancy.

In most cases, Gestational Diabetes doesn't cause any symptoms. It can only be detected when one's blood sugar levels are tested. Pregnant women should be concerned about this because if you have gestational diabetes;

  • There's increased likelihood of needing caesarean sections because of the size of the baby.

  • It can cause premature birth.

  • It can cause Preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy).

  • It can even lead to stillbirth in rare cases.

Not to worry, Gestational Diabetes can be treated. Your health care provider can recommend healthier lifestyle and fitting medications.

The first step in handling this disease is to get screened. Every pregnant woman should take this seriously as it might have lasting implications on your life or even your child's life.

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