Most women with gestational diabetes are asymptomatic.
Causes and Risk Factors
Gestational diabetes is the most common medical complication of pregnancy, with about 10 percent of cases being in women who had diabetes before getting pregnant. These women may have an increased risk of stillbirth and preeclampsia (high blood pressure). If the mother has high blood sugars (glucose) prior to conceiving, there may be problems with the structure of the baby's heart, spine or kidneys, with the risk for birth defects four times greater than in women who develop diabetes during pregnancy. Careful management of diabetes before conception is critical.
Ninety percent of the cases involving diabetes during pregnancy are classified as gestational diabetes.This can lead to baby having excessive birth weight, delivery problems, a cesarean section and preeclampsia (high blood pressure). The baby may be born prematurely and, as a result, be of low birth weight.
Other risk factors may include:
- A family history of Type 2 diabetes
- Maternal age (over age 35)
- Ethnic background
- A previous pregnancy with a high birth weight baby (more than 9 pounds or so)
- Poor obstetric history, such as a previous pregnancy with gestational diabetes
- Pregnancies within a year of each other
- Hormonal changes that cause the body to be resistant to insulin
With proper medical attention, the risk can even be lowered to near the level of a non-diabetic woman although women who experience gestational diabetes are at risk of becoming diabetic later in life.