About 5 percent to 10 percent of pregnant women in Taiwan develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, which can put the baby’s health at risk, a physician at Taipei City Hospital’s Zhongxing branch said.
Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism physician Kuo Ya-Wen (郭雅雯) cited a recent case when a 41-year-old pregnant woman, never diagnosed with diabetes, was found to have abnormally high levels of blood glucose during a gestational diabetes screening during a prenatal visit and was referred to the division for further treatment.
Kuo said the patient’s blood glucose level returned to normal after having insulin injections and that she has now given birth, but that her health is still being monitored.
“Gestational diabetes is a condition in which women not previously diagnosed with diabetes exhibit high blood glucose levels during pregnancy,” Kuo said.
It includes people who have type 2 diabetes, but who had not been diagnosed prior to pregnancy and those who develop glucose intolerance during pregnancy.
The prevalence of gestational diabetes in Taiwan is between 5 and 10 percent, she said, adding that patients diagnosed with gestational diabetes are in the high-risk group for developing type 2 diabetes.
“Pregnancy brings hormonal change and some hormones produced by the placenta trigger increased insulin resistance, so if the pregnant woman’s body cannot produce enough insulin to overcome the effects of insulin resistance, she will develop gestational diabetes,” Kuo said.
She said gestational diabetes can lead to complications, including gestational hypertension, polyhydramnios (excessive accumulation of amniotic fluid), infection and obstructed labor.
In some case, the newborn baby might have congenital abnormalities or suffer from hypoglycemia, respiratory distress syndrome, hypocalcemia (low serum calcium levels in the blood), polycythemia (elevated red blood cell count), jaundice or even death, Kuo said.
Pregnant women should schedule a gestational diabetes screening test during a prenatal visit between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy, she said.
Those diagnosed with gestational diabetes should try to control their blood glucose levels by exercising and controlling their diet before resorting to insulin injections, she said.
She said most women’s blood glucose level returns to normal after giving birth, but they should still get follow-up examinations six to 12 weeks later to ensure that their blood glucose level has returned to normal or if they have developed type 2 diabetes.