Diabetes mellitus that develops during a pregnancy is called gestational diabetes. It occurs in about 2 percent of pregnancies. During pregnancy, the growing fetus and the placenta (the tissue between the mother and her baby) create various hormones that help the fetus to grow and develop properly. Some of these hormones have other characteristics, such as anti-insulin properties that decrease your body’s sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that controls the blood glucose, causing glucose to rise. Other actions of the hormones include increasing glucose production, with a further rise in the glucose.
Testing For Gestational Diabetes
Pregnant women are given a glucose tolerance test between the 24th and 28th week of the pregnancy to rule out gestational diabetes. If gestational diabetes is found, the pregnant woman is put on a program of diet and exercise. If this does not keep the diabetes under control, insulin treatment is added.
Gestational diabetes that is untreated may result in the development of a large baby with an early and difficult delivery. The baby and/or the mother may be damaged during the delivery or a C-section may be needed.
Reducing The Risk
To avoid the risks of gestational diabetes prior to your pregnancy you need to:
- Lose weight: obesity puts a mother-to-be at greater risk of both gestational diabetes and high blood pressure
- Stop smoking: children of mothers who smoke during pregnancy are at greater risk of developing diabetes and obesity later in life
- Begin an exercise program if you do not already do so
Hypothyroidism During Pregnancy
The story with respect to thyroid disease is a little different. If you have borderline low thyroid function going into a pregnancy and don’t get enough iodine in your diet, you may develop clinical hypothyroidism (low thyroid function). If you are already taking thyroid hormone replacement because of hypothyroidism, the needs of a pregnancy will require that you take more thyroid hormone. If you do not do so, you could become clinically hypothyroid, which may hurt your growing fetus.