Gestational Diabetes Symptom and Signs

Gestational Diabetes Symptom

The symptom and signs of gestational diabetes are basically the same as type 2 and type 1 diabetes.

However, since the criteria for GDM is very strict and minimal hyperglycemia may not be associated with significant signs and symptoms that can be noticeable.

Normally, the renal threshold of glucosuria starts when the blood sugars are more than 180 mg/dl. In pregnancy, this threshold is reduced and females with gestational diabetes may notice symptoms earlier than normal people with diabetes.

However, the diagnosis of GDM is made when the blood sugars exceed 180 mg/dl after one hour of OGTT (oral glucose tolerance test) and 153 mg/dl after 2 hours of glucose tolerance test. Similarly, the cut-off for fasting blood sugars is 95 mg/dl (and some guidelines suggest 92 mg/dl).

It is, therefore important to check blood sugars earlier during pregnancy, especially, if the risks of developing diabetes are high.

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What is Gestational Diabetes (GDM):

Gestational diabetes is a type of high blood sugar (glucose) that develops during pregnancy and usually goes away after the baby is born. It can occur at any stage of pregnancy, but it is most common during the second or third trimester.

It occurs when your body cannot produce enough insulin, a hormone that helps control blood sugar levels, to meet your increased demands during pregnancy, or resistance to insulin develops because of placental hormones.

Gestational diabetes can harm you and your baby during pregnancy and after birth. However, the risks can be reduced if the condition is detected early and well-managed [Ref].

Since the criteria of GDM are very strict, the symptoms of gestational diabetes may develop when it’s too late or the blood sugars are off the roof.

The majority of cases are only identified by blood sugar monitoring during gestational diabetes screening.

Although signs and symptoms of gestational diabetes may not be evident early in the disease onset, it is important not to ignore the following symptom of gestational diabetes.

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  • Increased thirst

Insulin resistance can result in hyperglycemia in a pregnant woman with gestational diabetes, just as it can in a person with diabetes mellitus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that there aren’t any recommendations for how much water a person should consume daily at the moment [ref].

For females, an appropriate daily water intake was determined by the Institute of Medicine in 2004 to be 2.7 liters [ref]. These totals included the water content of every beverage and meal consumed by the individual.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2009-2012 found that the average daily fluid intake for women in the nation is 2.74 liters. All dietary sources of water were also included in these statistics [ref].

A person may, however, experience varying levels of thirst from day to day for several different causes. For instance, being particularly active or spending time in the sun can increase thirst.

Getting thirsty and dry mouth can be early signs and symptoms of gestational diabetes. This occurs as a result of water loss with the sugars in urine.

In addition, high blood sugar can elevate the plasma osmolality that stimulates the thirst center of the brain.

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  • Frequent urination:

Frequent urination is occasionally a symptom of gestational diabetes. The frequency of urination can also increase in case you develop a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Since both UTI and gestational diabetes are very common in pregnancy, testing for both is important. For urinary tract infections, a simple urinalysis can tell you if you have UTI or not. Your doctor may advise a urine culture as well.

UTI can be easily treated with a five days course of antibiotics. However, if urinalysis is normal, you may have GDM (gestational diabetes).

When blood glucose levels rise, water from the body’s tissues is drawn into the blood. These excess fluids are excreted by the kidneys as urine. You produce more urine as a result.

Between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy, healthcare professionals typically do a gestational diabetes screening. However, if you have symptoms of diabetes such as frequent urination, you may get tested earlier.

If gestational diabetes is treated, there won’t be any negative effects on the baby’s health, and the condition will often go away once you give birth.

Consult your doctor if you experience symptoms like frequent urination coupled with intense thirst, nausea, or weariness.

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Recurrent urinary tract infections and vaginal yeast infections:

Pregnancy causes an increase in the hormone estrogen, which is known to disrupt the chemical balance of the vagina. Pregnant women also have more sugar in their vaginal secretions, making yeast growth easier.

Your white blood cells’ ability to function can be impacted by blood glucose accumulation. You can develop recurrent vaginal yeast infections or urinary tract infections as a result of this.

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Lethargy and extreme fatigue:

While fatigue is common during pregnancy, uncontrolled diabetes will leave you feeling extremely weak and drowsy. It is best described as extreme fatigue or lethargy, with the desire to sleep in the middle of the day.

What causes this to happen? Diabetes causes sugar to remain in the blood rather than enter cells to provide energy. As a result, you have significantly less energy.

There is a state of starvation despite the blood sugars being high in the plasma. In addition, the nutrient and sugar requirements are generally during pregnancy. This puts the mother under stress and fatigue and lethargy may gradually develop.

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Nausea and vomiting following a meal

This is typically a symptom that appears after having persistently high blood sugar levels. Even though you are hungry, eating a regular-sized meal almost always makes you feel ill [ref].

What causes this to occur? The body breaks down fat to use as an energy source because it cannot use sugar for energy (which explains why sugar stays in the bloodstream).

Ketone-like substances are a byproduct of this activity; they accumulate in the blood and urine. You can feel more queasy than usual during pregnancy because of these ketones.

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Vision impairment:

Diabetic retinopathy is especially a concern in pregnancy. In females with preexisting diabetes, there may be a worsening in symptoms of diabetic retinopathy.

However, vision impairment is not much of a concern in early GDM. It can be a problem if the blood sugars are markedly elevated.

Following the delivery of the baby, these modifications are similarly transient and usually go away over time.

Additionally, preeclampsia in women with gestational diabetes might show symptoms including intermittent blurred vision and increased light sensitivity.

In addition to perceiving the “aura” of flashing lights, women may also experience other vision-related symptoms of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.

Furthermore, even though gestational diabetes is a temporary form of diabetes, it can damage the blood vessels in the retina.

The blurring of vision may be the first sign of gestational diabetes affecting vision. The risk of vision changes caused by rising blood sugar levels and associated hormonal and metabolic disruptions increases as the pregnancy progresses [Ref].

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Tingling sensations in the hands or feet

Another symptom of gestational diabetes is tingling (‘pins and needles‘) in the hands and feet. It is more noticeable, like blurred vision, because it is not a typical pregnancy symptom.

What causes this to happen? Excess sugar in the blood can cause nerve and nerve-ending damage.

Because the nerves in the hands and feet are the furthest from the heart, they tingle the most, making them more difficult for the body to access and repair.

In summary:

There is no one specific sign or symptom of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). Females at risk of developing GDM should be tested earlier in pregnancy. All pregnant females should undergo OGTT between 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy.

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What do you think?

Written by Dr. Ahmed

I am Dr. Ahmed (MBBS; FCPS Medicine), an Internist and a practicing physician. I am in the medical field for over fifteen years working in one of the busiest hospitals and writing medical posts for over 5 years.

I love my family, my profession, my blog, nature, hiking, and simple life. Read more about me, my family, and my qualifications

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