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The not-so-sweet truth

health and fitness Updated: Feb 20, 2012 13:22 IST
Sonal Shukla and Menaka Rao
Highlight Story

In the second month of her pregnancy, Kalyan resident Megha Prajapati, 29, learnt that she had diabetes. "My fasting blood sugar levels had shot up to almost 190 mg/dL," said Megha, who had been trying to get pregnant for the last two years. The normal fasting blood sugar should be 95 mg/dL.

The human resource consultant weighed 98 kg and had polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder leading to development of multiple symptoms such as obesity and irregular menstruation among others.

Prajapati had developed gestational diabetes, a condition in which women with no previous history of diabetes exhibit high sugar levels during pregnancy. According to doctors, the incidence of gestational diabetes is on the rise owing to various lifestyle related factors.

"Traditionally, this type of diabetes is detected in the seventh month of pregnancy. But these days, many pregnant women are detected with gestational diabetes as early as the second or third month. The contributing risk factors are obesity, PCOS, sedentary lifestyle, bad eating habits, lack of exercise, stress and late pregnancy," said Dr Archana Juneja, consultant endocrinologist, Seven Hills Hospital. "I have seen at least 40-50% increase in women getting gestational diabetes compared to five years ago," she added.

During her pregnancy, Prajapati was put on a strict diet and insulin treatment to keep her blood sugar levels in check. "From three full course meals I shifted to low fat food with small frequent meals. I was taking four insulin injections every day," said Prajapati.

As per her doctor's advice she also remained active throughout her pregnancy. "I was obese even as a child and have never exercised in my life. I had to change that and started taking short walks," said Prajapati, who delivered a healthy baby boy in August. Prajapati's blood sugar levels normalised after delivery. However, her doctor has advised her to lose weight.

Gestational diabetes worsens as the pregnancy advances but settles down mostly after delivery. However, in the absence of proper care, it can have long-term serious health consequences for the mother and the baby, said doctors.

"Pregnancies can be more complicated with higher chances of hypertension or urinary infections in the mother. Women are also at risk of developing diabetes in future pregnancies and later on in their life. Diabetes can also make women prone to miscarriages," said Dr Sonal Kumta, gynecologist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund.

The baby can develop congenital abnormalities as well and have a risk of developing obesity and diabetes later in life.

Cama and Albless Hospital recently treated a 32-year old Ulhasnagar resident who had gestational diabetes and hypertension. The patient delivered on September 29. While the baby girl weighed about 3 kg, she was suffering from both hypoglycaemia (reduced glucose levels) and electrolyte imbalance. The baby was treated for both in the neo-natal care unit (NICU).

"This patient had not controlled her sugar levels. Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are good-size babies, but later suffer from hypoglycaemia. In the womb, the foetus gets too much glucose through the placenta, which increases its glucose level. When the child comes out of the mother's body, it is deprived of glucose and develops hypoglycaemia," said Dr Rajshri Katke, superintendent of the hospital.

Andheri resident Sonia Singh (name changed) is not taking any chances. She is eight months pregnant and was detected with diabetes last month.

"I had to stop eating red meat and sweets. I check my blood sugar levels regularly. Doctor said in case of a lapse I might have to start taking insulin shots," said Singh who had PCOS before getting pregnant.

Doctors advise women to maintain their weight with regular exercise, proper diet and adequate sleep to prevent the onset of diabetes. "It is advisable for a woman planning to get pregnant to check for blood sugar levels before she gets pregnant so that preventive measures can be taken before pregnancy," Dr Juneja said.

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