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Gestational diabetes during pregnancy or GD/GDM refers to a form of diabetes that appears while you’re in your trimester, that would turn out as a pregnancy complication. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this occurs in almost 6-9% of pregnant women that can be carefully monitored to be treated.
What causes Gestational Diabetes during pregnancy ?
The insulin hormone is produced in the pancreas that regulates the metabolism of the body by producing fats and carbs, helping to turn sugar into energy. However, when the hormones from the placenta block insulin, it prevents the body from regulating the increased blood sugar, this is what is known as Gestational Diabetes. It results in hyperglycemia also known as the increased levels of sugar in the blood, that damage the nerves, blood vessels, and organs of the body.
When does it start and what does it result in ?
Gestational Diabetes is generally seen in pregnant women between the 24th – 28th week of pregnancy. However, it is an increased risk if :
1. You are overweight
Being a 30 BMI (body mass index) or more in pregnancy is seen as the most common risk factor for gestational diabetes. This is because extra weight affects the insulin’s ability to keep blood sugar levels in check.
2. You have higher levels of abdominal fat in the first trimester
According to the research of the American Diabetes Association’s journal, the higher levels of tummy fat could lead to gestational diabetes.
3. You are older
If you are over 35 of age, you may have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes.
4. You have a family history
If GDM runs in your family, you may have a chance of GDM.
5. You have a personal history of GDM
If you had gestational diabetes in your previous pregnancies, you’re more likely to have GDM again in the subsequent pregnancy.
6. You received a pre-diabetes diagnosis
If you have elevated blood sugar levels before pregnancy, you may have a risk of GDM.
7. You are on bed rest
Since bed rest means being inactive, you tend to put on more pregnancy weight. This extra weight could cause GDM.
How do you get diagnosed and what are its symptoms ?
With your regular gynecologist’s visit, they might regularly ask for your urine samples that are a way of checking for sugar that might be a sign of gestational diabetes. Although a positive screening doesn’t always mean you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Also, around the 28th week of your pregnancy, the doctor would initiate a glucose screening test to see if the blood picks high levels of sugar that would indicate gestational diabetes.
In most cases, there are no symptoms seen of gestational diabetes, perhaps, most experience the below mentioned:
- Unusual thirst.
- Large amounts of frequent urination
- Sugar in the urine at a routine practitioner’s visit
Effects of Gestational diabetes
GDM is treated via regular monitoring by your gynecologist, however, if you fail to get treated at the right time, you may risk excessive sugar circulation in the blood that would cause potentially serious problems for both, the mother and the baby. It affects either of the three stages:
- In the womb, it may cause macrosomia that makes normal delivery difficult and an urgent need of a C-section, or a risk for preeclampsia and stillbirth.
- Post-birth the baby may experience jaundice, breathing difficulties, and low blood sugar levels.
- Adulthood with increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Please notice, these are complications that might only take place if you fail to have it treated in time. Therefore, it is extremely important to have regular checkups to make sure the blood sugar level is under control.
How does it affect the mother ?
The mother with gestational diabetes has a 3 – 7% chance to develop type 2 diabetes in the coming 5-10 years. This is the reason she must have healthy habits during her pregnancy and keep a check on her health even after the pregnancy. Here are a few ways to stay healthy post-birth:
1. Keep up with doctor visits
Make sure the gynecologist reevaluates you after your postpartum visit to check for the levels of glucose and HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin)
2. Talk to a nutritionist
A nutritionist will help you develop to maintain and control your glucose levels
3. Eat healthy every day
Avoid the consumption of sugars and refined carbohydrates as it spikes the blood sugar contributing to type 2 diabetes. So, continue to opt for unprocessed foods like vegetables, low-fat meats, dairy, and whole grains
4. Breastfeed as much as you can
It helps decrease the developing type 2 diabetes as it helps the circulating of glucose in the blood better
5. Be fit
Irrespective of the baby taking away your time, we recommend you to keep your fitness in check too! However, make sure you get the routine approved by your doctor
How does it affect the baby ?
Babies from mothers with gestational diabetes despite any symptoms or not, must at first be tested for low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. This is a simple blood test that happens immediately after delivery. To avoid a type 2 diabetes diagnosis for the child ensure that he/she:
1. Consumes nutritious food
Follow the same diet you followed in the pregnancy for their goodness and health.
2. Exercises daily
As he/she starts to grow, initiate walks or outdoor activities if not exercise.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
Make sure the child’s BMI (body mass index) is on point. Also, make sure you talk about healthy weight and the increase in obesity openly.
How to treat gestational diabetes ?
If you are noticed as a gestational diabetic positive, the doctors and researchers recommend the following:
1. Monitor your blood sugar level multiple times in a day
Use a diabetes kit, that includes needles to prick your finger and a machine that reads your blood sugar. To ensure the sugar levels, you must monitor your level in the morning for fasting rate and an hour later after each meal to ensure the blood sugar stays in a healthy range.
2. Visit the dietitian
A dietitian can help review the healthy food options and plan your well-balanced meal.
3. Keep a note of what you eat
Post each meal, write everything you ate with the blood glucose number. This helps you understand what foods spike your glucose levels
4. Be active
To lower your levels of glucose, go for a regular walk. Diet and exercise help control gestational diabetes quite often.
The doctor may suggest some supplementary insulins that help you control the blood sugar levels and additional fetal monitoring in your third trimester. This includes nonstress tests, for normal heart rate and movements.
How to prevent gestational diabetes ?
Here are a few impactful steps that can help reduce the risk of developing both gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes:
1. Stay active
Staying active allows your body to burn the glucose even without the insulin. These fitness routines or workouts under your practitioner’s guidance is impactful to prevent gestational diabetes. All you need to do is go on walks after lunch and dinner even if it is 15 minutes short, it’s a great way to keep your blood sugars in check.
2. Have a healthy diet
If you do not have a healthy diet, it is the perfect time to make some changes! This will help protect both you and your baby while you’re in your trimester and also develops better eating habits for the future. Your diet must be loaded with a variety of fruits, vegetables; lean, healthy protein, complex carbs, high-fiber, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean red meat, poultry, legumes, and fish. Meanwhile, make sure to limit fat like butter, palm and coconut oils, cheese and processed meats, and sugar processed foods.
3. Maintain your body mass index
Along with the help of your gynecologist, try maintaining your normal weight and BMI. This will help gain the right amount of weight in your pregnancy.
At first, you must know that gestational diabetes or GDM is quite common in pregnant women and can be easily treated provided they are known by its nesh. The points above will help you understand everything about GDM, but we highly recommend having your gynecologist in the loop to prevent any uninvited diseases. Stay healthy, stay fit, and stay alert!