Celebrity health: Halle Berry
One in 20 women, such as Oscar winner Halle Berry, have diabetes during pregnancy. But once diagnosed it can be managed
Halle Berry, the Oscar-winning actress, has revealed she suffered diabetes while expecting her first child, Nahla.
It may console her to know that as many as one in 20 women develop a form of diabetes during pregnancy, a condition known -- not surprisingly -- as gestational diabetes.
As the baby grows in the womb, hormonal changes can result in higher blood-sugar levels in the mother. The hormones in question are produced by the placenta -- via which the mother delivers nutrients to her growing child.
The bigger the placenta grows over the course of the pregnancy, the more hormones it releases -- and the greater the chances of diabetes.
Normally, the upsurge in hormones is countered by the pancreas, the organ that supplies the body with insulin.
Gestational diabetes occurs when the organ struggles to produce the required amount of insulin.
Aged 41, Berry is firmly in the high-risk demographic -- the danger of developing the condition is much greater among the over 25s.
There are also indications that it is more prevalent among the overweight -- though given her regulation Hollywood figure, Berry hardly had cause to worry on that front.
However, in up to 50pc of cases, there is no discernible cause of the condition.
In the unborn child, gestational diabetes can lead to birth defects.
The most common complication is called macrosomnia, by which babies are born oversized. This happens because the foetus produces excess insulin to absorb the large levels of glucose it is receiving from the mother.
That, in turn, serves as a growth trigger -- resulting in newborns with larger than normal heads and shoulders, which increase the chance of an injury during childbirth.
No less worrying is evidence that pre-existing diabetes among mothers -- most commonly linked to obesity -- is on the rise. A US survey found recently that the number of woman with diabetes during pregnancy doubled in the past seven years.
Pre-existing diabetes poses a threat to both mother and child: the risk of miscarriage and still-birth climbs sharply and there is a possibility the infant will be born with birth defects.
However, once it has been diagnosed, gestational diabetes can be managed during pregnancy.
The mother will probably be advised to limit the amount of glucose in her system by adopting a low-sugar diet. Exercise has also been shown to help.
Should neither of these produce the desired result, doctors will recommend insulin injections, to bring down blood-sugar levels.
Should the pregnancy otherwise go smoothly, the long- term effects of gestational diabetes are minimal. The mother's blood-sugar levels will, in most cases, revert to their pre-existing levels shortly after childbirth.