Gestational diabetes is the onset of diabetes during pregnancy. It affects about 2-10% of pregnant women every year. When your body can’t make enough insulin during your pregnancy, gestational diabetes occurs. Insulin is produced in the pancreas and allows glucose to become energy for your body to use. During pregnancy, your body is making more hormones and going through many changes, which can cause the body’s cells to use insulin less effectively. This is a condition called insulin resistance, which increases your body’s need for insulin. This leads to gestational diabetes. If you develop gestational diabetes it doesn’t mean you had diabetes before and with proper management, it can keep them from turning into type 2 diabetes after.
Testing For Gestational Diabetes:
Usually around weeks 24-28 of your pregnancy, your doctor will screen you for gestational diabetes. During this appointment, you will drink a solution that contains 50 grams of glucose. You will usually be offered a couple of different flavors and told to drink it in five minutes. My doctor offered me orange or red, assuming red meant fruit punch, I went with orange. It tasted like very sweet, very flat orange soda or Gatorade. It was a strange taste and my suggestion is just to chug it. After an hour, a blood sample will be taken to test your blood sugar level. If the results are too high, you may have to come back for the three hour testing. Bring a book or something to keep you entertained, if so!
Consequences If Left Untreated:
For a mom with gestational diabetes, you are at risk of having high blood pressure and also an increase of having a cesarean section due to large birth weight for baby. There are also complications for baby, which are large birth weight, premature birth that can lead to breathing and other problems, low blood sugar, and also the chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Usually gestational diabetes go away after your baby is born but about 50% of women go on to develop type 2 diabetes.
Prevention and Management:
- Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
- Engage in regular physically activity (30minutes to an hour each day)
- Eat a healthy diet that contains fruit and vegetables.
- Reduce sugar and fat intake
Management for During and After
- Achieve a healthy weight after baby is born
- Regular visits to the doctor to check blood sugar levels (6-12 weeks after baby is born and then every 1 to 3 years)
- Be active! A brisk walk can lower your blood sugar and make you more sensitive to insulin so your body won’t need as much.
- As for your diet:
- Watch intake of starchy foods. While it is important in every meal, be mindful of portions. One cup per meal is reasonable. (ex: two slices of bread)
- Limit fruit portions. Fruit is a very healthy food but they do contain lots of natural sugars. Eat 1 to 3 portions of fruit a day, such as 1 small piece of fruit, half a large piece, or about ½ cup of mixed fruit. Stay away from fruit canned in syrup.
- Don’t skip breakfast! (ex: toast and eggs= great morning meal)
- Avoid fruit juice.
- Limit sweets and sodas
Having the knowledge and a great support system can help you get through this time if you do have gestational diabetes. Remember, actively managing your gestational diabetes will help prevent them from turning into type 2 diabetes and may even go away after baby is born. Be present when it comes to your health and the health of your baby and never be afraid to ask for help or advice if you need it!