Some women develop elevated blood sugar levels during pregnancy. This is also referred to as gestational diabetes or GDM (gestational diabetes mellitus). It could happen between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy and just because you’ve developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy, it does not necessarily mean that you had diabetes before becoming pregnant, or will have it after giving birth. However, this condition increases the risk of type 2 diabetes at a later stage. If not managed properly, it could also increase the risk of your child developing diabetes, and the risk of complications for the baby and yourself during pregnancy and birth.
Everything You Need to Know About Gestational Diabetes
It doesn’t happen often that gestational diabetes causes any symptoms, but if you do experience some, they will most likely be mild. They might include:
- Blurred vision
- The need to urinate constantly
- Excessive thirst
The reason behind women developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy is still unknown. However, being overweight often has an influence. Usually, multiple hormones work to keep blood sugar levels stable. However, when you are pregnant, your hormone levels fluctuate, making it more tricky for your body to process blood sugar effectively, which leads to elevated blood sugar.
During pregnancy, your body generates more significant amounts of hormones, including:
- Hormones that elevate insulin resistance
- hPL (Human placental lactogen)
These hormones influence the placenta and assist your body with sustaining your pregnancy. With time, these hormones amplify which leads to an insulin resistance in the body. Insulin plays a valuable role in your body. It helps with moving glucose out of the blood and into cells which is then used for energy. During pregnancy, your body usually becomes slightly resistant to insulin, to have more glucose available in the bloodstream which is then passed to your baby. If your insulin resilience is too strong, it leads to an abnormal rise in blood glucose levels. This then results in gestational diabetes.
When Must You See a Doctor?
It is advisable to seek health care as early as possible, when you are still planning on getting pregnant, so that your doctor can check what your risk is for gestational diabetes as well as your overall wellness. When you are expecting, as part of your prenatal care, your doctor must monitor your health to check for gestational diabetes. If you have developed gestational diabetes, you will need regular check ups, especially during the last three months of pregnancy. The doctor will then monitor your baby’s health and your blood sugar levels.
Who Carries The Most Significant Risk of Developing Gestational Diabetes?
You might have a high risk of getting gestational diabetes when you:
- Are older than 25 years
- Suffer from high blood pressure
- Are expecting multiples
- Have diabetes in your family history
- Were overweight before getting pregnant
- Gained excessive weight during pregnancy
- Have given birth before to a baby that weighs more than nine pounds
- Had an unexplained still birth or miscarriage before
- Had gestational diabetes during former pregnancies
- Have used glucocorticoids
- Have any conditions linked to insulin resistance, like acanthosis nigricans, or polycystic ovary syndrome
- Have Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, African, or Native American ancestry
What is The Association Between Insulin and Gestational Diabetes?
All types of diabetes are associated with the hormone insulin. Insulin is responsible for regulating glucose levels in your blood by permitting sugar to move from your blood into cells. A lack of insulin or ineffective utilization of insulin by the cells in your body can lead to elevated glucose levels in your blood. When you gain weight, your body utilizes insulin less efficiently, therefore it must generate more in order to manage sugar levels in your blood.
Also, during pregnancy, the placenta generates insulin-resistant hormones. This allows sugar to remain in your blood for longer after a meal. Your baby is deriving nutrients from your blood during pregnancy, so it is advantageous for the nutrients to remain in your blood longer, so that your baby can get them. Some insulin resilience is normal when you are pregnant.
Your Glucose Levels Might Become Too High During Pregnancy When:
- You were insulin resistant before conceiving
- The blood glucose levels in your body were already elevated before becoming pregnant
- You have health conditions that might increase your risk of becoming insulin resistant
Diagnosing Gestational Diabetes
Doctors are encouraged to screen pregnant women periodically for any signs of gestational diabetes. If a woman has no former history of diabetes and her blood sugar levels were normal at the start of her pregnancy, the doctor will then screen for gestational diabetes during 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy.
Do You Get More Than One Form of Gestational Diabetes?
There are two classes where gestational diabetes is divided into.
- Class A – Gestational diabetes which is manageable through diet alone.
- Class B – Oral medication or insulin is given in conjunction with a healthy diet to manage the condition.
Complications of Gestational Diabetes
If the condition is not carefully controlled, it could result in elevated blood sugar levels which can be dangerous for both mom and baby. It also increases the likelihood of a C-section delivery.
Complications For Your Baby
If you have gestational diabetes during pregnancy, your baby might be at a higher risk of:
- Preterm Birth – elevated blood sugar levels might increase the risk of early labor and delivery before the baby’s due date. It might also be recommended if your baby is large.
- Excessive Birth Weight – the baby could grow too large. Babies that weigh more than nine pounds are more susceptible to becoming wedged in your birth canal, requiring C-section delivery, or having birth injuries.
- Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity – mothers with gestational diabetes and their babies might have a more significant risk of being obese or developing type 2 diabetes at a later stage.
- Severe Breathing Issues – babies who were born too early as a result of their mothers having gestational diabetes might have respiratory distress syndrome which is a condition that causes severe breathing issues.
- Stillbirth – gestational diabetes that is left untreated, may cause a baby’s death just before or after delivery.
Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar) – In some instances babies of moms who have gestational diabetes have hypoglycemia after birth. Severe episodes might result in seizure in the baby. Prompt feedings or a dose of intravenous glucose solution can help to stabilize the baby’s blood sugar levels.
Complications For Moms
Gestational diabetes might also elevate your risk of:
- Preeclampsia and High Blood Pressure – preeclampsia is a serious complication that leads to high blood pressure during pregnancy as well as a range of other symptoms that can be life-threatening for both mom and baby.
- C-Section Delivery – you are more likely to deliver your baby via C-section when you have gestational diabetes.
- Diabetes – you are more at risk of getting gestational diabetes with a future pregnancy, or developing type 2 diabetes at a later stage.
Healthy Foods To Eat When You Have Gestational Diabetes
A balanced eating plan is essential for appropriately controlling gestational diabetes. Special attention must be paid to your fat, carbohydrate, and protein intake.
Eating frequently (as regularly as every two hours) could go a long way in managing your blood sugar levels.
- Healthy carbohydrate food choices include:
- Brown rice
- Whole grains
- Fruits that are low in sugar
- Lentils, beans, peas, and other legumes
- Starchy vegetables
If you are pregnant, you need two to three protein servings per day. Good sources of protein are:
- Lean meats
- Healthy fats include:
- Olive oil
- Unsalted nuts
Prevention of Gestational Diabetes
Avoiding gestational diabetes all together is not possible. But, adopting healthy habits can lower the risk of developing this condition. Try to get regular exercise and stick to a healthy diet, if you have some of the risk factors that could result in gestational diabetes. Even light exercise, like walking, can be advantageous. If you are planning to have a baby, try to lose some weight if you are overweight. Even losing a minimal amount of weight could lower your chances of getting gestational diabetes during pregnancy, or developing type 2 diabetes later in your life.
Here are some thing you can to to reduce the ricks of developing gestational diabetes:
Stick to a Healthy Eating Plan
Try to stick to foods that are low in fat and calories, but high in fiber. Watch portion sizes, and eat a variety of foods to achieve your goals.
Exercise before getting pregnant and during pregnancy to lower the risk of gestational diabetes. Aim for at least thirty minutes of moderate exercise on most days of your week. Try things like swimming, cycling, going for a brisk walk, etc.
Healthy Weight at The Beginning of Your Pregnancy
If you are planning on having a baby, try to lose some weight beforehand if you are overweight. It will also lead to a healthier pregnancy overall.
Try Not To Exceed the Recommended Weight Gain
It is normal and healthy to gain some weight during pregnancy. However, putting on too much weight can increase the risk of gestational diabetes. Ask your doctor about the recommended amount of weight gain that is right for you.
We hope you have found this post about everything you need to know about gestational diabetes helpful and that you will follow some of the guidelines and tips that we have shared with you to reduce the risk of developing this condition during pregnancy.