If managed properly, gestational diabetes is unlikely to result in complications for the mother or infant. In most cases, gestational diabetes will go away after giving birth. Unfortunately, not every case is handled with the care needed, putting the thousands of pregnant women affected by this disease every year at risk of health complications, health issues, and birth injuries to their children.
Health Complications That Affect the Mother
- High blood pressure and preeclampsia: The mother’s risk of high blood pressure increases with gestational diabetes, as well as the risk of preeclampsia, a dangerous pregnancy complication that causes symptoms like high blood pressure among others, and can threaten both the infant and the mother’s life.
- Increased risk of diabetes: Even though gestational diabetes typically goes away after your pregnancy is over, you are more likely to get it again in all future pregnancies. Not only that, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life greatly increases. If you suffered from gestational diabetes, you can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by maintaining a healthy lifestyle through proper diet and exercise.
Health Complications That Affect the Baby
- Hypoglycemia: In some cases, babies of mothers suffering from gestational diabetes can develop hypoglycemia, or low blood pressure soon after they are born due to excessive insulin production. In extreme cases, hypoglycemia can cause the baby to suffer from seizures. This can be prevented by feeding them promptly, and in some cases medical professionals can bring the baby’s blood sugar levels back to normal with an intravenous glucose solution.
- Increased risk of diabetes: The mother isn’t the only one whose risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with gestational diabetes; the baby’s risk increases as well, along with their risk of developing obesity.
- Excessive birth weight: The mother’s gestational diabetes creates excessive glucose in their bloodstream which can cross the placenta and trigger the fetus’ pancreas to create more insulin. If this happens, the fetus can grow to be too large – also known as macrosomia. If the baby grows to be larger than 9 pounds, they have an increased risk of becoming stuck in the birth canal, which further increases their risk of suffering from a birth injury or requiring a cesarean delivery (C-section).
- Respiratory distress syndrome and preterm birth: The mother’s increased blood sugar levels can increase the risk of going into early labor. If the baby is delivered before its due date, it can suffer from respiratory distress syndrome, a condition that makes it more difficult for them to breathe. Until their lungs become strong enough to function properly on their own, the baby may require assistance breathing. Even if the baby is born on or close to its due date, they are still at risk of suffering from respiratory distress syndrome if their mother has gestational diabetes.
Along with these complications, the baby has an increased risk of dying either before or shortly after they are born if the gestational diabetes is left untreated.
How Can You Manage or Treat Gestational Diabetes?
It’s vital that your doctor monitors and controls your blood sugar if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes to prevent complications during your pregnancy and delivery. There are a variety of treatments they may recommend to keep you healthy as well:
- Healthy diet: Healthy portions of the right kinds of foods is one of the most effective ways you can keep your blood sugar levels under control while also preventing excessive weight gain. Doctors advise against losing weight during a pregnancy, and can work with you to set healthy weight gain goals by focusing your diet around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other foods high in fiber and nutrition and low in calories and fat. No single diet works for everyone, so you should work with your doctor or registered dietician to create a healthy and affordable plan.
- Exercise: Physical activity stimulates your body to move glucose into your cells to be used as energy, lowers your blood sugar levels, and lowers your body’s need to create more insulin by increasing your cell’s sensitivity. Talk with your doctor to create an exercise regimen that works best for you.
- Monitor your blood sugar: Your doctor may ask you to test your blood sugar levels four or five times a day – once when you wake up, after each meal, and again before you go to bed – to ensure that it stays within a healthy range.
- Medication: Diet and exercise may not be enough to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level. 10 to 20 percent of mothers suffering from gestational diabetes require insulin – whether through injections or through oral medication – to control their blood sugar levels.
You also need to continue to monitor your blood sugar levels following your pregnancy due to the increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Your doctor needs to constantly monitor both your blood sugar levels as well as your baby’s development to ensure a healthy delivery. If they fail to do so, both you and your baby are at risk of serious health complications, including death. If you or your baby suffered from adverse effects due to negligence, you may be able to file a claim to secure the compensation you need to cover medical costs and any other damages you may incur. At Kinnard, Clayton & Beveridge, our Nashville medical malpractice and birth injury lawyers are committed to providing the top-tier legal services you need. Contact us today through our website to tell us about your case, or give us a call at (615) 933-2893 to set up a meeting with one of our birth injury and medical malpractice attorneys.