Gestational diabetes can occur in women with no previous medical history of diabetes, and often disappears after you give birth. You can take precautions to help avoid developing gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes affects as many as 9.2% of all pregnant women. While gestational diabetes poses a risk to mother and child, it is not as threatening as Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and typically goes away after pregnancy. With the proper diet, mindfulness, and medical attention, you can manage gestational diabetes to reduce the risks it poses.
What Is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a condition that only occurs during pregnancy. During pregnancy, your body produces hormones that allow you to add nutrient-rich layers of fat to your body. These changes cause your body to use insulin less efficiently, which can create a resistance to insulin. This resistance means that you need more insulin for your body to function correctly.
The levels of blood glucose (sugar), which your body normally burns as energy, become too high, which puts stress on your pancreas and other internal organs. All women will experience some degree of insulin resistance during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes occurs when your pancreas cannot create enough insulin to keep up with the growing demand.
Gestational diabetes is most often diagnosed late in your pregnancy and can be treated with dietary changes and medication to keep both you and your baby safe.
Risks Factors for Gestational Diabetes
The risks of gestational diabetes for your baby can be limited with consistent treatment, but some possible complications include:
- Higher than normal birth weight
- Injuries during delivery do to baby’s size
- Pre-term labor
- Temporary breathing problems
- Higher risk of developing diabetes or obesity later in life
Some women are at greater risk of developing gestational diabetes than others. If you present any of the following risks, talk to your obstetrician:
- Previous experience with gestational diabetes
- Previous birthing of a baby weighing more than nine pounds
- Family history of diabetes
- Elevated sugar levels
- Ethnicity (African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American women are at greater risk)
Some obstetricians recommend that all pregnant women get tested between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy to err on the side of caution. However, to catch this condition before it develops too far, talk to your OBGYN about your risk factors as soon as possible.
How Can I Avoid Gestational Diabetes?
Unfortunately, gestational diabetes symptoms, like Type 2 diabetes, do not present themselves beforehand. This asymptomatic onset is why many obstetricians choose to test all of their patients rather than risk a failed diagnosis.
Because there are no gestational diabetes symptoms, the best way to avoid them is proactive prevention:
- Eat healthily. Eat high fiber, low-fat foods with an emphasis on vegetables and whole grains. Avoid “white foods” like sugar, flour, pasta, and potatoes, which are starchy and can spike your blood sugar.
- Stay active. 30 minutes of exercise a day can drastically decrease your risks of developing gestational diabetes. Walking, swimming, and yoga are all low impact exercises that can safely raise your heart rate.
- Lose weight prior to pregnancy. Obstetricians do not recommend weight loss during pregnancy, but if you are planning on becoming pregnant, slimming down beforehand can help you have a healthier pregnancy—and increase your chances of conceiving!
- Get Tested. If your risk factors are high, discuss them with your obstetrician and request to have your blood sugar tested. Testing early and often can help you catch gestational diabetes before it potentially affects you or your baby.
If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, your doctor will suggest customized meal plans and daily exercise. Your obstetrician may also recommend daily blood glucose testing, diabetes medication, or insulin injections to help control your diabetes.
If you are concerned about your risks for gestational diabetes, contact The Woman’s Clinic at 501-664-4131 to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced obstetricians. We have been serving the women of Arkansas since the 1930’s with high-quality care for women of all ages, races, and orientations.
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