Gestational Diabetes

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
April 1, 2008 4:45:13 PM PDT
A woman's body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy. And one thing they can encounter is developing diabetes.With more on gestational diabetes, Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

It's called gestational diabetes, which is diabetes that pops up during pregnancy. It doesn't cause symptoms, so doctors must screen for it. As with other forms of the illness, diet, eating right and medications can lead to a healthy outcome, in this case for mother and baby.

Melissa Hinkle looks like a healthy 43-year-old mother-to-be, but her age puts her at risk for gestational diabetes. She has it now and had it with her previous baby, perhaps because of some other risk factors besides age.

"My mother had two of her four children were pretty well over 10 pounds, which wasn't diagnosed as gestational diabetes at the time," she said. "But they suspect that that was the cause of that."

Large babies are a risk factor for the illness, which is similar to regular diabetes. It shows up perhaps because pregnancy hormones interfere with sugar breakdown and make insulin less effective.

Other risk factors, besides babies more than nine pounds and older age at conception, include race - especially Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians - high blood pressure or a family history of diabetes. But it's not that simple.

"It's sort of not predictable," said Dr. Lois Brustman, of St. Luke's Hospital in Roosevelt. "About 50 percent of the time we have someone with diabetes, we can't find a risk factor for it."

So now, doctors routinely test for it.

Pregnant women are tested for gestational diabetes at weeks 24 through 28 during the nine months. If they have risk factors, they're tested on their first visit to the doctor.

Melissa controls her diabetes with diet. Exercise helps too. Melissa checks her blood sugar eight times a day and must use insulin injections. She says it is not a big sacrifice for a healthy baby.

"Although it's a little strange to inject yourself in the stomach, especially while you're's not nearly as horrible as it sounds," she said.

Women can't prevent this problem, but they should make sure they tell their doctors of large birth weight babies in the family or of diabetes. If not treated, the illness can lead to children prone to high blood pressure, obesity and type-two diabetes later in life.