What are the Major Risk Factors of Gestational Diabetes?

pregnant woman thinking about the risk factors of gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes affects 2% to 10% of pregnancies in the United States each year. While the condition may seem alarming at first, it is very treatable with blood sugar monitoring, special meal plans and close communications with your doctor. During National Diabetes Awareness Month, our birth injury attorneys wanted to inform you of the main risk factors of gestational diabetes during pregnancy and the effects it may have on you or your child if left untreated.

What is gestational diabetes? 

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that may develop during pregnancy in women who do not already have a diabetes diagnosis. Specifically, gestational diabetes occurs when a woman’s body doesn’t produce enough of the hormone insulin during the pregnancy. Sometimes, it will appear as insulin resistance, or the process of cells in your muscles, fat and liver not responding well to insulin and are not able to take up glucose from your blood.

How is it evaluated? 

Gestational diabetes normally does not have any symptoms. However, the American Diabetes Association recommends using a two-step glucose test to ensure a proper diagnosis of the disease between the 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. If you have increased risk factors for gestational diabetes, your doctor may recommend doing a glucose screening as early as your first prenatal visit.

What are its risk factors? 

Gestational diabetes may develop in all women, but there are some risk factors your doctor should pay close attention to during your prenatal visits to test for and rule out gestational diabetes. Common risk factors in the mother are:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Prediabetes
  • Gestational diabetes in a past pregnancy
  • Family history of type 1 or 2 diabetes
  • Previous baby with large gestational size
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Age
  • Race or ethnicity

How may the risk factors of gestational diabetes lead to a birth injury?  

With a timely diagnosis, proper management and additional monitoring, gestational diabetes is not usually a serious complication. But, there are instances when the risk factors of gestational diabetes are ignored and go undiagnosed. A lack of a diagnosis may lead to additional complications for both mother and baby resulting in a birth injury. These common conditions are:

  • Preeclampsia. Gestational diabetes raises a mother’s risk for high blood pressure as well as preeclampsia — a serious condition of high blood pressure during pregnancy that may lead to eclampsia if left untreated.
  • Premature birth. High blood sugar may increase your risk for early labor and delivery before your determined due date. Premature babies may have an increased risk for a birth injury depending on their stage in development.
  • Fetal Macrosomia. Also known as large gestational size, fetal macrosomia may pose a serious risk to the mother in the case of a vaginal delivery. Undetected gestational diabetes will trigger a baby’s body to overproduce insulin, allowing the baby to gain more weight prior to delivery and potentially get stuck in the birth canal. A c-section should be performed if the baby is presenting an abnormally large size to reduce the risk for birth injuries such as shoulder dystocia or a brachial plexus injury.
  • Hypoglycemia. Babies whose mothers have gestational diabetes will overproduce insulin which may trigger neonatal hypoglycemia, or a condition where blood sugar levels are very low shortly after birth. Low blood sugar in babies may trigger seizures, developmental disabilities or other brain injuries during birth.

What should I do if my doctor was negligent? 

As with any pregnancy, your doctor has a duty to care for both you and your baby to ensure a safe and healthy delivery. If your doctor fails to detect gestational diabetes and it results in a birth injury to you or your baby, you may be able to file a birth injury lawsuit for either failure to recognize gestational diabetes or failure to provide proper treatment if risk factors of gestational diabetes were present.

If you believe you experienced negligent prenatal care and it led to unforeseen complications from a failed diagnosis of gestational diabetes, contact our dedicated team of birth injury lawyers. As mothers and fathers, the ZDR team will guide you through the filing process and help you obtain the justice you deserve for yourself and your baby.

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