Gestational Diabetes: Consequences For Fetal Programming of Vascular Disease in Adulthood

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Gestational Diabetes is a condition present in the later stages of pregnancy where the mother has insulin resistance leading to glucose intolerance. The aetiology of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus is largely unknown but several theories include autoimmune destruction of the beta cells, monogenic mutations and insulin resistance. In pregnancy it is normal for there to be some levels of insulin resistance and it is thought that the products of the placenta contribute to the state of insulin resistance as GDM usually subsides after pregnancy. GDM in pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in the offspring such as hypertension and atherosclerosis. This is due to the increased levels of oxidative stress and inflammatory mediators present during pregnancy. The placenta is very important as it is able to control and buffer the amount of glucose that is delivered to the fetus but if this level is too high then it is out of the placenta’s control and the fetus may have increased rate of growth due to this extra glucose. The current focus of research in this area seems to be into finding ways to diagnosis GDM earlier in the pregnancy and to try and reduce the amounts of oxidative stress.  

Gestational diabetes: consequences for fetal programming of vascular disease in adulthood


Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) occurs when there is a glucose intolerance that is first detected during pregnancy. It is a form of hyperglycaemia (Buchanan and Xiang 2005). The aetiology of the condition is unknown but there have been many suggestions as to the cause of it, including autoimmune destruction of the ß pancreatic cells and the possibility of a genetic predisposition to the condition. Hormones that are produced in pregnancy help contribute to the insulin resistant state which characterises diabetes. In recent years, there has been an increase in the cases of Obesity and this is a risk factor for both Diabetes Mellitus and Cardiovascular Disease. The intrauterine environment can affect fetal programming and development. This essay will look into how the placenta and its products can affect the insulin resistant state and how this resistance effects programming as well as the role of oxidative stress and inflammation in making the offspring more susceptible to cardiovascular disease.

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM)

GDM is a state of insulin resistance which disturbs the intrauterine environment and can lead to accelerated fetal growth (Radaelli et al 2003).It effects approximately 7% of pregnant women with approximately 200,000 cases seen each year (Schillan-Koliopoulos and Guadagno 2006). The term GDM is applicable when the onset is during the second and third terms of the pregnancy, but it does not exclude the possibility that the insulin resistance was undiagnosed before the pregnancy. If this is the case and is found to occur in the earlier stages of pregnancy then the mother should be treated the same as mothers who are known to have diabetes before pregnancy (Metzger, Coustan 1998).

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