Gestational Diabetes (GDM)

GDM is Diabetes that develops during pregnancy (gestational) usually around the 24 – 28 weeks mark.

The condition usually goes away after the birth of the baby.

GDM causes higher than normal blood glucose levels in the mother and this increases the risk of undesirable health problems.

Some of the risks associated with GDM include:

  • increased risk of stillbirth
  • premature delivery
  • macrosomia (big babies)
  • caesarean sections

It is not always preventable but there are known risk factors.These include:

  • A family history of Type 2 Diabetes (sometimes referred to as Niddm – non insulin dependent diabetes)
  • Being over 30 years of age
  • Being in the overweight category
  • Having had GDM in a previous pregnancy
  • Gaining too much weight in the first trimester
  • Indigenous Australian or Torres Strait Islander

Other ethnic groups also at greater risk are Vietnamese, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Polynesian and Melanesian people.

GDM is diagnosed when at 24 – 28 weeks gestation, the fasting blood glucose level is 5.1 mmol/L or higher.

The threshold for diagnosis was lowered,  due to findings in an International study which involved  25,000 women, (The Hyperglycaemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes Study),  where it was found a baby’s health could be at risk when maternal blood glucose levels were lower than the previous level of 5.5 mmol/L.

According to the Australian Diabetes in Pregnancy Society (ADIPS), the official GDM rate in Australia has stood at approximately 5%.  But recent Australian research indicates this figure is closer to 8 or 9% (1 in 12 women).

The change to the threshold will mean that in some parts of Australia, 12-13 % or 1 in 8 will be diagnosed with GDM.  Some areas of Australia will have greater or lesser increases than this depending on their concentration of women at greater risk in the population.

GDM is usually managed through diet and exercise (lifestyle changes). Insulin injections are necessary in severe cases.

High dietary intake of saturated fat and generally a diet which does not resemble an eating pattern recommended by the Australian guidelines, can also increase the risk of developing GDM.

If you have GDM , an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) , who specialises in weight management in pregnancy can help.

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