When a woman is pregnant, one condition that she worries developing during the course of her pregnancy is Gestational Diabetes. Although it may seem scary and you worry about its effects upon you and your baby, it can be managed through careful monitoring and making modifications in the diet.
Gestational Diabetes Defined
Gestational diabetes is a condition that usually develops between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy. While you are pregnant, there are numerous hormonal changes going through your body. In the case of gestational diabetes, you are either not able to produce sufficient insulin or the insulin is being blocked, thus making it ineffective in counteracting the high levels of glucose in your body (hyperglycemia).
While gestational diabetes affects 1 in 10 pregnant women, researchers have yet to discover why some women develop this condition while others don’t.
There are certain factors that will identify if you are at risk of developing gestational diabetes or not. These factors are:
1) Obesity = A BMI of 30 or more is the biggest risk factor for gestational diabetes. Having extra weight has a detrimental effect on insulin’s function to regulate blood sugar levels.
2) Large amount of abdominal fat during the first trimester of pregnancy
3) Women above the age of 35
4) Family history of diabetes
5) Race = Gestational diabetes occurs more in Hispanic, African-American, Native American and Asian women
6) Prior history of gestational diabetes during a past pregnancy = Research reveals that you have been diagnosed with the condition during your first pregnancy, you may be at risk during subsequent pregnancies.
7) Diagnosed with Pre-Diabetes Prior to Pregnancy = If blood tests revealed slightly elevated blood sugar levels before you became pregnant, you are also at risk.
8) Prolonged bed rest during pregnancy = The extra weight caused by inactivity increases your risk for gestational diabetes.
Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes
Women with this condition are largely asymptomatic (have no symptoms). But a few may develop more common symptoms of diabetes including:
1) Excessive thirst
2) Frequent and excessive urination (Frequent urination during pregnancy is usually little in amount owing to the compression of the bladder by the uterus)
3) Severe fatigue
4) Excessive snoring
If you have any of the risk factors and/or are exhibiting the above symptoms of diabetes, you need to be checked by a doctor so that a conclusive diagnosis can be made.
Diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes
It is already a part of your prenatal checkup that your doctor collects a urine sample from you. This is in order to check for the sugar levels in urine.
By Week 28 of your pregnancy, it is mandatory that you undergo a glucose screening test. Here, you will be asked to drink a sweet fluid and then have your blood extracted after an hour. An elevated sugar level will require the doctor to conduct a three-hour glucose tolerance test to conclusively determine if you have the condition.
Complications of Gestational Diabetes
Elevated blood sugar levels pose serious health risks to both the mother and the baby.
The complications in your baby are as follows…
1) Macrosomia = the baby may be too large and too heavy that it may end up getting stuck in the birth canal, cause birth injuries (also in the mother), and would require cesarean section
2) Risk of preterm birth and baby may develop respiratory distress syndrome
3) Hypoglycemia = some babies are hypoglycemic after birth and may develop seizures
4) Increased risk of developing Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes later in life.
Here are the complications in the mother…
1) Birth injuries to her birth canal because of the large baby. Cesarean section is preferable.
2) Increased risk of high blood pressure and preeclampsia
3) Increased risk of getting gestational diabetes in future pregnancies and developing Type 2 Diabetes later in life.
Treatment and Prevention
Surprisingly, the measures to prevent gestational diabetes are the very same steps that you take to treat it.
1) Monitor Your Blood Sugar
It is recommended that you take your blood sugar as soon as you wake up in the morning (fasting rate) and then an hour after every meal. Your doctors will prescribe a diabetes kit so that you can get blood samples via pin pricks.
These are the recommended targets by the American Diabetes Association
• Before a meal (Pre-prandial) = 95 mg/dl or below
• 1 Hour after a meal (Post-prandial) = 140 mg/dl or below
• 2 Hours after a meal (Post-prandial) = 120 mg/dl or below
2) Eat a healthy diet
If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you need to make a switch to a healthier diet, preferably one that is devised by a dietitian. To simplify, you need to consume a larger quantity of fruits and vegetables, reduce your intake of fats to 30 percent of your daily caloric requirement, and restrict consumption of sugars and processed foods. You should also eat more high fiber foods.
You should also keep a food journal. It is important that you remove foods that cause glucose spikes from your diet.
Please remember though that it is important that you stick to your meal plan in order to keep blood sugar at normal levels.
3) Exercise regularly
While exercising may be difficult during pregnancy, the activity is important so that you burn off all the excess glucose. There are great exercises for pregnant women on the Web or you can simply take a brisk 15-minute walk.
4) Always monitor your weight
There are thankfully pregnancy weight gain calculators on the Web which will enable you to determine just how many pounds you should be. You can also plot your weight on a weight chart and have your doctor analyze the figures. If you have excess pounds, you will need to lose it through diet and exercise.
5) Supplementary Insulin
Most women are able to control their gestational diabetes through dietary modification and exercise. But if these measures are insufficient, your doctor may prescribe supplementary insulin in the form of injections. One medication that is frequently being prescribed for gestational diabetes is Glyburide, which acts by inducing the pancreas to produce and release more insulin.