Last updated September 2011. Planned review date: September 2013
Gestational diabetes and premature birth
Gestational diabetes simply means diabetes that develops during pregnancy. Any woman can develop gestational diabetes though some women are at more risk than others (see below). It affects around 14 in every 100 pregnant women. It is associated with premature labour and needs careful monitoring.
What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that starts during pregnancy and stops after the baby is born. Diabetes is an inability to process glucose, which leads to high levels of blood sugar.
The risks of gestational diabetes
Any form of diabetes - including diabetes that developed before the pregnancy - must be managed carefully because it is associated with complications such as:
- Macrosomia (where the baby is large for gestational age)
- placental abruption
- trauma to the mother or the baby during the birth
- the death of the baby around the time of the birth.
Who is at risk of gestational diabetes?
You are at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes if:
- your body mass index (BMI) is more than 30
- you have previously had a baby who weighed 4.5kg (10lbs) or more at birth
- you had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- you have a family history of diabetes
- your family origins are South Asian (specifically India, Pakistan or Bangladesh), black Caribbean or Middle Eastern (specifically Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon or Egypt)
Tests and treatment for gestational dabetes
The healthcare team will ask questions and take blood tests to check your glucose levels. If you test positive, you and your baby will be carefully monitored throughout your pregnancy, and you will be shown how to monitor your own glucose levels.
Around 80 percent of women diagnosed with gestational diabetes manage to control their glucose levels through exercise and dietary changes. The remaining 20 percent may be offered medication.
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Explaining premature birth:
Your premature baby:
You can also read about
NHS Choices (accessed Jan 2012) Health A-Z, Gestational diabetes, introduction http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/gestational-diabetes/Pages/Introduction.aspx
NHS Choices (accessed Jan 2012) Health A-Z, Gestational diabetes, complications http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/gestational-diabetes/Pages/Complications.aspx
NHS Choices (accessed Jan 2012) Health A-Z, Gestational diabetes, causes http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/gestational-diabetes/Pages/Causes.aspx
NCCWCH (2008) Diabetes in pregnancy management of diabetes and its complications from preconception to the postnatal period, National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health, London, RCOG Press, p 13
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