Pregnancy and Diabetes
The different types of diabetes and how they could affect your baby.
Diabetes affects 11.5 million women in the United States. According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 10 percent of all women aged 20 or older have the condition.
If diabetes is left untreated, the consequences are blindness, kidney failure, and limb amputation are just a few of the potential health hazards. And if you're pregnant, your baby can suffer healthwise too. The good news? If you get the proper medical treatment, neither you nor your baby has to suffer from this very serious -- but very manageable -- disease.
Types of Diabetes
Put simply, diabetes develops when the pancreas produces too little or no insulin, a hormone that enables sugar derived from food to enter the body's blood cells and be converted to energy. Without sufficient insulin, sugar builds up in the blood and over time can damage the eyes, kidneys, heart, and nerves. Diabetics are also at risk for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which can lead to a diabetic coma.
There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 1, which is less common but more severe, is an autoimmune disease that develops when the pancreas fails to produce insulin. It's usually diagnosed during childhood or early adolescence. Symptoms include frequent urination, extreme thirst, and sudden weight loss. To control their disease, type 1 diabetics need to inject themselves with insulin throughout the day.
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder resulting from the body's failure to produce enough or properly respond to insulin. The symptoms are similar to those of type 1, though they're less severe. Some type 2 diabetics can control their disease through diet and exercise only. Others use medications to keep sugar levels in check.
A third type, gestational diabetes, is pregnancy-specific, occurring in about 3 percent of all pregnancies and disappearing after delivery. It occurs when hormone levels in the placenta begin to prevent the mother's insulin from effectively transporting sugar into cells. In most cases, blood sugar can be regulated by special meal plans and exercise; however, some women will require more serious treatment with insulin injections. Gestational diabetes usually cures itself when the pregnancy ends, but just because it goes away doesn't mean you've said good-bye to diabetes; women with gestational diabetes are at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Causes and Treatments
While the cause of diabetes is unclear, the risk factors are well known. These include:
A family history of diabetes
Obesity or being overweight
A history of gestational diabetes
A history of having a baby who weighed more than 9.5 pounds at birth
A sedentary lifestyle
Being of Native American, African-American, Hispanic, or Pacific Island descent
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