Expecting moms, you may want to talk to your doctor about gestational diabetes
“Gestational diabetes is most common from 20 weeks of pregnancy and is rarely diagnosed before this." 10 to 16 February as Pregnancy Awareness Week in South Africa, and here we discuss one of the most common but unknown health risk developed during pregnancy.
Lesser known pregnancy health risks include blurry vision and shortness of breath, as well as gestational diabetes. (iStock)
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The Department of Health has earmarked 10 to 16 February as Pregnancy Awareness Week, encouraging South Africans to educate themselves about the risks related to pregnancy

The commemorative week could not be more important because while we're all aware of the cliché symptoms of pregnancy, there are a few nasty surprises awaiting moms-to-be that only become evident when pregnant. 

These lesser known health conditions include blurry vision and shortness of breath, as well as gestational diabetes. 

Although lesser known, gestational diabetes has been identified as one of the most prevalent conditions during pregnancy and is a direct result of increased hormones which block the body's ability to produce insulin. 

The condition occurs in women who have no history of diabetes before pregnancy. 

"Gestational diabetes is most common from 20 weeks of pregnancy and is rarely diagnosed before this. Identifying the signs and symptoms of gestational diabetes isn’t always easy as they are nonspecific,"says Dr Liz Radloff, obstetrician/gynaecologist at Life Wilgers Hospital. "However, a urine test, which is then followed up with a fasting blood test, can ascertain whether an expectant mother has this condition." 

Healthy diet and exercise is the standard recommendation, but specialists may also prescribe medication in oral or injectable forms in order to manage high sugar levels. 


Also see: “Pregnancy gave me diabetes — and I had no idea”

Did you develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy? How did you discover it, and how did the condition impact you both during pregnancy and after giving birth? Share your story with us, and we could publish your letter. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous.


Who is most at risk of gestational diabetes? 

According to Dr Liz, known risk factors for developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy include age (being older than 25), excess weight, and pre-existing health conditions including high blood and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). 

Gestational diabetes carries with it complications for both mother and child such as preterm labour for moms, as well as low blood sugar and a higher than average birth weight in newborns

Staying on the safe side

Although common, gestational diabetes can be avoided, and for Dr Liz nutrition plays a huge role. 

"It is important for pregnant women to adopt a healthy, balanced diet and establish a regular exercise routine that is overseen and approved by their specialist. It is not recommended that women who are overweight attempt to lose weight once they have fallen pregnant. If weight loss is required, consulting with your specialist and a dietician will ensure that this is done safely to minimise the risk of complications,” she explains. 


Also see: Dealing with low blood pressure during pregnancy


Postpartum effects

Following birth, the condition does clear, however, the risk of developing a long-term version of the condition, such as type 2 diabetes, increases. 

Doctors urge mothers to maintain a healthy diet and exercise even after their babies have been born. 

“Gestational diabetes can be a worrying diagnosis for an expectant mother. However, by managing the condition with your obstetrician/gynaecologist and making well-informed decisions related to your diet and exercise, risks can be mitigated, and expectant mothers can look forward to delivering healthy babies,” she concludes.. 

Chat back:

Did you develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy? How did you discover it, and how did the condition impact you both during pregnancy and after giving birth? Share your story with us, and we could publish your letter. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous.

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