Things Woman Should Know About Gestational Diabetes
There is nothing more important to an expectant mother than the health and well being of her baby. Which is why it’s so important to understand all the facts about gestational diabetes. Unlike other forms of diabetes, gestational diabetes develops in women during pregnancy who have not been diagnosed with diabetes prior to becoming pregnant.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 10% of all pregnancies in the United States are impacted by gestational diabetes. Granted, this isn’t an overwhelming percentage, however, if you become pregnant and develop gestational diabetes it can pose risks your health, as well as the health of your baby.
What Is Gestational Diabetes?
Like all forms of diabetes, gestational diabetes develops because the body cannot effectively produce or use insulin to process blood sugar. With gestational diabetes, however, the added variable is that during pregnancy hormones in the placenta cause blood sugar to naturally build up. If the body is unable to create enough insulin or effectively use the insulin it does create to compensate for the excess blood sugar, levels begin to rise, and eventually gestational diabetes develops.
How Long Does Gestational Diabetes Last?
The good news is for most women gestational diabetes goes away soon after the baby is delivered with blood sugar levels naturally returning to normal. Your physician will perform a simple blood test somewhere between 6 to 12 weeks after your delivery date to verify that the diabetes is no longer present.
What Causes Gestational Diabetes?
The Mayo Clinic points out that researchers aren’t exactly sure why some women develop gestational diabetes and others don’t. However, there are some key factors that have been identified as contributing to the risk of developing the disease. They include:
– Being overweight or obese prior to becoming pregnant
– Being physically inactive
– Having immediate family members who’ve being diagnosed with diabetes
– Being diagnosed as “prediabetic” before becoming pregnant (elevated blood sugar levels, but not high enough to lead to a diabetes diagnosis).
– Developing gestational diabetes with previous pregnancies
– Having previously delivered a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
– Being in a high-risk ethnic group - Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian American.
– Being over the age of 30.
How Do You Know If You Have Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes (like all diabetes) can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. Most women have their blood sugar tested between 24 and 28 weeks into the pregnancy to determine whether or not levels have elevated. However, if you meet any of the “added risk” criteria, it’s very likely your doctor will recommend testing your blood sugar much earlier in the pregnancy and monitor it more closely throughout.
In terms of symptoms, the vast majority of women experience no telltale signs that they’ve developed gestational diabetes. Blood sugar levels rise gradually and there are usually few physical manifestations. This is why screening is so important. It’s the only way to know for certain whether or not you have developed gestational diabetes, and the sooner you know the sooner you can take the appropriate steps to manage it.
Complications for You and Your Baby
It’s important to stay on top of gestational diabetes, because when left untreated both mother and baby risk a number of complications.
– High blood pressure. Gestational diabetes can lead to long-term issues controlling blood pressure.
– Preeclampsia. A pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and damage to organs, most often the kidney and liver.
– Risk of developing Type 2 diabetes after pregnancy. Up to 50% of women who develop gestational diabetes go on to develop Type 2 diabetes after they’ve given birth.
– Excessive birth weight. Babies can weigh 9 pounds or more, leading to complications in delivery and possibly the need for a C-Section.
– Preterm birth. High blood sugar in the mother may increase the chance of delivering well before the due date.
– Breathing problems. Babies born premature can experience “respiratory distress syndrome”, a condition that inhibits breathing.
– Obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are more likely to become obese and develop Type 2 diabetes in their own lives.
– Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Babies of mothers with gestational diabetes are often born with low blood sugar, which can lead to seizures in these newborn infants. Fortunately, prompt feeding or intravenous glucose can usually return blood sugar to target levels quickly.
Can You Avoid Developing Gestational Diabetes?
While there are no guarantees when it comes to preventing gestational diabetes, there are definitely some things you can do to lower your risk of developing the disease. For best results, these lifestyle changes should be started before you plan on getting pregnant.
Go for foods that are high in fiber and low in fat and sugar content. Try to load up on veggies and whole grains and watch your portion sizes. Steer clear of sugary juices, sodas and desserts as they can all spike blood sugar levels.
Exercising both before and during pregnancy can help lower your risk of developing gestational diabetes. You don’t need to run a triathlon. Fit in about 30 minutes of moderate activity - walk, swim, bike ride, go for a leisurely hike.
Strive For a Healthy Weight Before Your Pregnancy
If you’re considering getting pregnant, targeting a healthy weight before it happens is a very good idea. However, once you are pregnant do not begin any weight-loss program without first consulting your obstetrician. Pregnancy requires you to gain weight for your baby to be healthy. How much or how little should be determined by your doctor.
Treating Gestational Diabetes
Many women are able to control gestational diabetes through doctor-approved diet and fitness programs. However, others require insulin treatments in order to keep blood sugar in the safe and healthy range. While there are other medication options your physician might consider, insulin is proven to lower blood sugar levels without impacting the unborn child, so it is usually the prescribed choice. Regardless, treating gestational diabetes includes.
Regular blood sugar testing
You’ll need to test your blood sugar multiple times each day to assess your levels. This is done using diabetic test strips and a glucose meter and is a relatively painless process that your doctor will go over with you. Simply prick the tip of your finger using a small device called a lancet, place a drop of blood on the test strip, insert it into the glucose meter for an on-the-spot blood sugar reading.
Follow your doctor prescribed medication plan
If you do require medication to control blood sugar, your program will likely include insulin injections using either syringes or insulin pens. Again, this is something your doctor will discuss with you and which method of delivery you choose really comes down to personal preference and your specific diabetes needs.
Whatever diabetes treatment plan your doctor recommends; it is vital that you follow it to the letter. The key to a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby should you develop gestational diabetes is making sure your blood sugar levels are well controlled. Adhering to your diabetes treatment makes this possible.
Effectively manage gestational diabetes and soon you’ll be the parent of a healthy infant, and it’s very likely your bout with diabetes will be over. If you are among those who end up developing Type 2 diabetes, it’s nice to know that living with the disease today is easier than ever before thanks to new innovations and plenty of options, including convenient online shopping for all your diabetic needs.
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