Failure to Diagnose Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a pregnancy complication involving high blood sugar levels.  It is one of the most common complications, affecting 2-5% of pregnant women.  Typically, it is diagnosed between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation and, for the most part, the cause is unknown.

Many pregnant women show no obvious signs of gestational diabetes.  This is why good and accepted standards of medical care require that an OB/GYN administer an oral glucose tolerance test to determine a pregnant mother's blood sugar levels.  Some common signs of gestational diabetes include:
  • fatigue;
  • blurred vision;
  • frequent infections (e.g., urinary tract infections);
  • extreme thirst;
  • constant urination;
  • nausea and vomiting; and
  • weight loss.
Early diagnosis and treatment is critical to the health of mother and baby.  Undiagnosed gestational diabetes can be dangerous because, more often than not, women with gestational diabetes deliver larger babies (greater than 9 pounds) which can increase the risk of a vaginal birth complication such as hypoxia, ischemia, or a shoulder dystocia and birth injuries such as Erb's palsy and cerebral palsy.  Also, women with undiagnosed gestational diabetes may be at risk for complications from high blood pressure and/or preeclampsia.

In most cases, symptoms of gestational diabetes are mild and are not life threatening to mother or baby.  Where treatment is necessary, it typically consists of:
  • diet management (e.g., 10-20% of calories from protein, 30% from fats, 50-60% from complex carbohydrates)
  • exercise; and/or
  • medication (e.g., insulin).
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