Pregnancy is a time of joy and excitement, but it can also be a time of worry and stress. One of the biggest concerns for pregnant women is gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy. Diabetes during pregnancy can be a concerning diagnosis. You are probably wondering what this means for you and your baby.
While gestational diabetes can be managed with proper medical care, it’s important to understand the causes and effects of gestational diabetes so you can prepare yourself and your baby for any potential risks. Here’s everything you need to know about gestational diabetes and how you can best prepare for it.
What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes, or gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. It is caused by changes in the way your body processes glucose, which can lead to high blood sugar levels. During pregnancy, these elevated glucose levels can cause health problems for both you and your baby.
The exact cause of gestational diabetes is unknown, but it’s believed to be related to hormonal changes during pregnancy that interfere with the way insulin works in the body. These hormones are needed for normal fetal development, but they can also make it more difficult for your body to use insulin effectively.
What causes diabetes during pregnancy?
Diabetes during pregnancy occurs when your body cannot produce insulin. Pregnancy increases your body’s production of hormones like human placental lactogen (hPL) and other hormones that increase insulin resistance. As a result, your body needs to produce more insulin to keep blood sugar levels normal. However, if you don’t produce enough insulin, gestational diabetes can occur.
What are the symptoms of gestational diabetes?
Many women have no symptoms of gestational diabetes, which is why it’s important to be tested for gestational diabetes during your pregnancy. If you do experience any symptoms, they may include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Excessive hunger
- Yeast infection
Who is at risk of gestational diabetes?
Women of any age can develop gestational diabetes, although women over 25 years old are at higher risk. Additionally, women are also at higher risk for gestational diabetes if they:
- Have high blood pressure
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Were overweight before you became pregnant
- Are not physically active
- Gain a larger than typical amount of weight during pregnancy
- Are expecting multiple babies
- Have previously given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
- Have had gestational diabetes in the past
- Have had an unexplained miscarriage or stillbirth
- Have been taking steroids, like glucocorticoids
- Have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), acanthosis nigricans, or another condition associated with insulin resistance
What are the risks associated with gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes can increase the chances of some serious health problems for both you and your baby. For mothers, these include:
- Preeclampsia (high blood pressure)
- Perinatal depression
- Preterm labor
- Cesarean delivery
Among complications that can affect your baby are:
- Macrosomia (larger than average)
- Birth injuries such as shoulder dystocia
- Breathing problems including respiratory distress syndrome
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Higher risk of developing diabetes later in life
It’s important to talk to your doctor about your gestational diabetes and any potential risks so you can prepare for a safe pregnancy.
How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?
Gestational diabetes is typically diagnosed during the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy through a glucose tolerance test. This test measures your blood sugar levels after fasting and after drinking a sugary drink. If you have gestational diabetes, your doctor will likely recommend lifestyle changes and possibly medication to help manage your symptoms.
What should I do if I have gestational diabetes?
If you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it’s important to take control of your health by following your doctor’s recommendations for managing your diabetes. This includes taking all medications as prescribed, monitoring your blood sugar levels regularly, and making the necessary lifestyle changes. It is also important to attend all of your scheduled prenatal appointments so that your doctor can monitor the progression of gestational diabetes throughout your pregnancy.
How is gestational diabetes treated?
The goal of gestational diabetes treatment is to keep blood sugar levels within normal range without causing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in either mom or baby. Treatment includes:
- Diet modifications
- Regular physical activity
- Monitoring your own blood sugars (self-monitoring of blood glucose)
- Insulin injections, if necessary.
Your doctor may also suggest additional tests at the end of your pregnancy to check your health and your baby’s.
How is diabetes during pregnancy managed?
The good news is that gestational diabetes can be managed with proper medical care, lifestyle changes, and regular monitoring of your blood sugar levels. Your doctor will work with you to develop an individualized plan based on your needs. This may include healthy dietary changes like reducing or eliminating processed foods or increasing your intake of whole grains and fresh produce. Exercise is also important to keep your blood sugar in check; however, it’s important not to overdo it while pregnant.
Your doctor may also recommend medication if necessary to help control your diabetes symptoms. It’s important to follow all of your doctor’s instructions to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Can diabetes during pregnancy be prevented?
Although gestational diabetes cannot be prevented, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk. These include maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet and limiting your intake of processed foods and sugar. Regular exercise is also important for managing your blood sugar levels. If you have any risk factors for gestational diabetes or have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes in the past, talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk before becoming pregnant.
Check your risk of gestational diabetes
It’s important to check your risk of gestational diabetes along with your overall wellness and other pregnancy-related health risks before you become pregnant. Talk to your Nao Medical OB-GYN about your lifestyle, medical history, and any family history of gestational diabetes so they can help you make the best decisions for your health and the health of your baby.
With the right information, regular monitoring, and lifestyle changes, gestational diabetes can be managed effectively so you can enjoy a safe and healthy pregnancy.