Gestational diabetes can happen to any pregnant person, and it’s more common than you might think. The key to protecting your little one from a birth injury is early diagnosis and proper care.
Even someone who wasn’t diagnosed with diabetes before becoming pregnant could experience gestational diabetes, which is a type of diabetes that is temporary during pregnancy.
This common condition affects around 1 in 10 pregnancies and is usually diagnosed in the late 2nd trimester or early 3rd trimester. Some women who have gestational diabetes may have had prior pregnancies without gestational diabetes.
Although gestational diabetes no longer affects the mother once the baby is born, it can increase the risk of birth injuries and other complications for the baby. Because of this, a timely diagnosis and appropriate medical treatment are crucial for the health and safety of the unborn baby.
What is gestational diabetes?
Diabetes (or high blood sugar) can occur if your body has difficulty producing enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that allows the cells in your body to process sugar and convert it into energy.
During pregnancy, your body undergoes changes in hormone levels to promote fetal growth that can cause your cells to process insulin less effectively (a condition called insulin resistance), which can result in a higher than normal blood sugar level and lead to gestational diabetes.
Regular prenatal care includes tests to identify issues with blood sugar levels. If you’re diagnosed with gestational diabetes, your doctor, midwife or other healthcare provider should regularly monitor your blood sugar levels and take steps to educate you on the recommended diet and exercise regimen to ensure the health of you and your baby.
You may also require closer monitoring throughout pregnancy, including more frequent visits and ultrasounds to monitor the size of your baby.
How common is gestational diabetes?
The CDC estimates that gestational diabetes affects around 9 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. each year. This number varies depending on the population studied and the types and numbers of diagnostic tests performed.
One reason why there isn’t a clear figure for the prevalence of gestational diabetes is that rates vary by state. Obesity is a strong risk factor for gestational diabetes, and some states have higher numbers of people who are obese. The CDC says that nearly 50 percent of gestational diabetes cases could be eliminated by women reaching a healthy weight before becoming pregnant.
The CDC also encourages women of childbearing age to seek counseling on physical activity, nutrition and contraceptive use in order to achieve good health before pregnancy. This is especially important because it’s estimated that nearly half of U.S. pregnancies are unintentional.
Reducing your risk of gestational diabetes
Not everyone can eliminate their risk of developing gestational diabetes. There could be genetic factors, though researchers have not detected a clear pattern for inheritance. In addition, there is some research that suggests that women who become infected with COVID-19 either during pregnancy or prior to pregnancy could have a higher risk for gestational diabetes.
Research also shows that extreme stress or trauma can increase your risk for gestational diabetes.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes, including:
- Exercise. Certainly, exercise is a vital component of any healthy lifestyle, but it’s particularly beneficial for those at risk of gestational diabetes. Through exercise, your body becomes more sensitive to insulin, which helps lower blood sugar levels.
- Maintain good health before pregnancy. General good health prior to becoming pregnant increases the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy and baby. Seek treatment for any medical or mental concerns, and let your provider know if you intend to become pregnant.
- Maintain a good diet during pregnancy. Some pregnant women experience food cravings, aversions or morning sickness. These normal symptoms of pregnancy could present challenges when trying to maintain a healthy diet and good nutrition. However, it’s important to consult with your doctor throughout your pregnancy to make sure you’re gaining the appropriate amount of weight for each trimester and eating a well-balanced diet.
- Make routine care appointments. As soon as you learn that you’re pregnant (or if you suspect you might be), make an appointment with an obstetrician, midwife or other healthcare provider of prenatal care services. Your provider will discuss any concerns you may have, perform blood tests and other routine exams, examine your overall health and fitness for pregnancy, and inform you of any routine appointments that will be required throughout your pregnancy.
- Attend all scheduled appointments. It’s also vital that you attend all of your prenatal appointments, which will likely become more frequent as your pregnancy progresses. These appointments provide essential information to your doctor, and certain conditions (like gestational diabetes) are easier to manage when they’re detected early.
How gestational diabetes could affect your baby
If too much blood sugar passes through the placenta, it can cause your baby to have high blood sugar levels as well. Although your baby will produce extra insulin to process the excess blood sugar, any unprocessed blood sugar will get converted to and stored as fat. This can lead to issues such as:
- Fetal macrosomia or a larger than average baby (9 pounds or more), which can make delivery difficult and lead to birth injuries and the need for a cesarean section (C-section)
- Premature delivery, which can lead to breathing issues and other problems for the baby that may require specialized care and monitoring in the newborn intensive care unit or NICU
- Low blood sugar after birth (in the baby), which can lead to brain damage and respiratory problems
- Increased risk of the baby developing type 2 diabetes later in life
Is undiagnosed gestational diabetes a cause for a medical malpractice lawsuit?
While every case is unique, in some instances, the answer is yes.
A doctor’s action (or inaction) can’t cause gestational diabetes. The condition arises from factors related to the pregnant woman’s body. However, failing to diagnose gestational diabetes could mean that specific actions to protect the health of you and your baby weren’t taken.
It is standard practice across the U.S. for providers of prenatal care to screen every pregnant woman for gestational diabetes. The timing might vary, but it’s a commonly accepted and expected test.
If you or your baby suffered harm as a result of not being diagnosed with gestational diabetes or improper management and monitoring after your diagnosis, you might be able to file a malpractice claim.
If you believe your child suffered a birth injury because of a failure to diagnose or properly manage gestational diabetes, contact the Brown Trial Firm. Laura Brown has years of experience in birth injury law, helping families like yours all across the U.S. get the compensation they deserve. If you need help with your birth injury lawsuit, contact us today for your free consultation.
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