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By Dr Tan Shu Qi, Consultant and Associate Professor Tan Thiam Chye, Visiting Consultant, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, KK Women's and Children's Hospital

The news that you have gestational diabetes may sound scary but while this pregnancy symptom poses some health risks, you can protect yourself and your baby from any complications with a few simple steps and an understanding of the condition.

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is usually a temporary form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. Owing to hormonal changes, your body may not produce enough insulin, the substance which regulates the sugar levels in your body. This results in sugar levels in your body increasing.

Here are five things you need to know about gestational diabetes:

1. Gestational Diabetes Often Disappears After Childbirth

gestational diabetes disappears after childbirth

In some cases, it may persist and treatment and long-term follow-up is needed. However, having GDM also means you have a higher risk of developing diabetes later in life.

Related: How to Have a Healthy Pregnancy When You Have Diabetes

2. GDM Occurs in 2–5 Percent of All Pregnancies

GDM occurs in 2 to 5 percent of pregnancies

You may be at risk if:

  • Your parents or siblings have diabetes
  • You are obese
  • Your previous child weighed more than 4 kilograms
  • You have had a history of gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy

3. Diabetic Mums Have Health Risks

health risks for diabetic mums

These include:

  • Having a large baby weighing more than 4 kilograms. This is a condition known as macrosomia. It means you may have a more difficult delivery and it increases the risk of delivery complications
  • Developing pre-eclampsia, which is high blood pressure in pregnancy
  • Developing type 2 diabetes later in life

4. Your Baby Will Not be Born With Diabetes

babies with diabetic mums

However, if GDM is not well-managed, your baby may be at risk from:

  • Developing congenital abnormalities
  • Developing health problems after birth, such as breathing difficulties and low sugar levels
  • Becoming overweight
  • Developing diabetes when they're older

5. You Can Manage Gestational Diabetes for a Healthy Pregnancy

managing gestational diabetes for a healthy pregnancy

You will need to:

  • Monitor your blood glucose levels diligently
  • Take your medication regularly, if your doctor has prescribed it
  • Cut down on sugary and fattening foods from your diet as they may cause excessive weight gain and higher blood sugar levels
  • Exercise regularly
  • Go for regular check-ups with your doctor

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Read these next:

Sources:

The New Art and Science of Pregnancy and Childbirth 2008, World Scientific

Healthy Start for your Pregnancy 2012, Health Promotion Board Singapore