With all the changes that come with pregnancy, particularly hormonal, changes in insulin can cause gestational diabetes.
This condition can affect the mother and the baby but usually goes away after giving birth. However, for the remainder of the pregnancy, there are things that can be done to manage the condition and reduce the effects.
What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes (GD) is the development of diabetes during pregnancy caused by high blood sugar levels. It's typically short-lived, and in most cases goes away after giving birth.
It's manageable through healthy eating, exercise, and in some cases, medication. Properly managing gestational diabetes during pregnancy can help prevent potential complications associated with this condition.
Pregnant women should get tested for gestational diabetes between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy. Recognizing it at an early stage helps manage the condition more easily throughout the rest of the pregnancy.
According to the CDC, roughly 2-10% of women develop gestational diabetes. However, that number has been rising in recent years due to the increase in heart disease and obesity.
While anyone can develop gestational diabetes, certain factors put you at a higher risk:
- A family history of gestational diabetes or diabetes mellitus
- Being overweight or obese
- High blood pressure or heart disease
- Being considered a prediabetic
- Have polycystic ovary syndrome
- Have had gestational diabetes before
- Previously gave birth to a baby larger than 9 pounds
- Are African-American, Asian, Hispanic, or Native American
Symptoms of gestational diabetes
Gestational diabetes can have little to no symptoms. For those who experience symptoms, they're typically very mild (feeling abnormally thirsty, urinating more frequently, or feeling more tired).
Treatment and solutions
Monitoring your blood sugar is an important part of managing gestational diabetes. Here are a few tips to help you control your blood sugar:
- Consume a healthy diet: Talk to your medical provider about what kinds of foods to eat to help manage your blood sugar.
- Be active: Make sure you're staying physically active throughout your pregnancy. Talk with your provider about what kinds of exercises are safe to do while pregnant.
- In some cases, insulin will be necessary to moderate blood sugar.
Potential complications for expectant mothers
With gestational diabetes, expectant mothers can experience mild to severe complications.
- High blood pressure: During pregnancy, developing high blood pressure can cause stress on the heart and kidneys. This can also lead to preeclampsia in serious situations.
- Higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes: Having gestational diabetes contributes to a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Because of this, it's important to manage your weight to prevent the development of diabetes in the future. Maintaining or reaching an ideal weight greatly reduces your risk of developing diabetes later on.
Potential complications for babies
Experiencing gestational diabetes can cause issues for your baby.
- Early birth: The high blood pressure that can accompany gestational diabetes can cause an early birth. You and your doctor may decide to have an early delivery because of the baby's size.
- Low blood sugar: A baby born to a mother with gestational diabetes may create too much insulin, resulting in low blood sugar. This can be managed with regular feedings or a glucose solution.
- Higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes: The children of mothers who experienced gestational diabetes while pregnant have an increased risk of becoming obese and also of developing type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.
Preventing gestational diabetes
Before becoming pregnant, adhering to healthful practices for losing or maintaining weight is best practice. The healthier you are before getting pregnant, the more likely you are to have a healthy and uncomplicated pregnancy.
By following a healthy diet and staying active, you'll better your chances of preventing gestational diabetes.
Be sure to schedule an appointment with your provider to discuss the health of you and your baby during pregnancy and how to prevent gestational diabetes.