Pregnancy is always special. The birth of a new life holds so much hope and promise, but not every pregnancy goes as planned. While most of the 4 million births that occur every year are straightforward, some are not. And of those, some result in birth injuries to the child and a few bring complications that can threaten the life of the mother.
Gestational diabetes is one of those conditions. Every year in the U.S., about 240,000 women experience gestational diabetes during their pregnancy. It can cause an increased size in the child, which can lead to birth injuries like a dislocated shoulder or broken collarbones. Women with the condition may have to deliver via a cesarean section.
Most dangerously, the gestational diabetes may be a precursor to preeclampsia. This condition, sometimes known as pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH) or toxemia, can lead to extremely high blood pressure, seizures, strokes and in some cases, the death of the mother.
Because of these risks, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has now issued a recommendation that all pregnant women be tested for gestational diabetes after 24 weeks.
Another factor behind the recommendation is that more mothers are overweight or age 25 or older, both of which increase the risk of the condition. Better awareness of the risk can allow the diabetes to be controlled by diet alone in most cases.
In severe cases, when preeclampsia develops early in the pregnancy, doctors need to keep a close eye on the mother. The only treatment for preeclampsia is delivery of the child, which may leave a doctor the difficult choice of an extremely premature birth or risking a stroke or seizure in the mother.
Source: KPLU 88.5, “Doctors Recommend Universal Diabetes Testing For Pregnant Women,” Nancy Shute, Jan. 14, 2014