What You Should Know about Gestational Diabetes

Pregnant women making oatmeal

Gestational diabetes is diabetes, or high blood sugar levels, that develops during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes affects as high as 9.2% of all pregnancies and is usually diagnosed in the later stages of pregnancy1. This type of diabetes can often affect women who have no prior history of diabetes. Here is some more information on exactly what gestational diabetes is, and what you should know if you or someone you know is suffering from it.

What exactly is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes begins to develop when your body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy1. When your body does not have enough insulin, the glucose builds up in the blood to high levels. This inhibits the blood from changing into energy1. This condition, hyperglycemia, directly relates to gestational diabetes1.

Aside from hyperglycemia, a problem called insulin resistance develops. Insulin resistance makes it harder for the mother’s body to use her insulin to help the baby develop2.

Gestational diabetes can cause the baby to be larger than normal, which can make the delivery a bit more complicated3. If the mother suffers from gestational diabetes, the baby is also at risk of developing low blood glucose immediately after birth3.

Some of the risks factors that can increase risk of gestational diabetes include3:

  • obesity,
  • a history of gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies,
  • a family history of type 2 diabetes, and
  • having prediabetes.

What are your options if you develop it?

A screening:

Because there are no clear symptoms of gestational diabetes, all pregnant women should have a screening during their pregnancy3. The most common time for pregnant women to be tested is between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy3. The screening will simply consist of blood samples that will confirm the diagnosis1. You can also test your glucose levels at home. Most women test their glucose levels about four times a day after meals or at other specific times3.

Proper diet and exercise:

Treatment for gestational diabetes involves a strong dedication and commitment to maintaining a proper diet carefully tailored into a daily nutritional plan3. The main focus of your diet should be to keep your blood sugar level under control3.

Some ideas to help with your nutritional plan include3:

  • Eating a variety of foods
  • Eating more small portions throughout the day instead of few larger meals
  • Seeking help from a nutritionist
  • Eat fewer carbohydrates and more fiber (fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grain)
  • Limit sugar intake
  • Don’t skip meals

Maintaining a healthy diet by following your nutritional plan may help to prevent and/or minimize the risks of gestational diabetes3.

Practicing a regular exercise routine will also help you stay healthy and make sure your body has healthy glucose levels3.

Insulin therapy:

Every persons’ body is different and will respond differently to diets, exercise, and treatments. If your diet and exercise are not sufficient for you to maintain acceptable glucose levels, ask your doctor about insulin therapy3. During insulin therapy, insulin is administered in the fat under your skin using a syringe, insulin pen, or insulin pump2. Some women may need up three times as much insulin in their body. As the pregnancy progresses, insulin requirements may change, and insulin doses may need adjustment3.

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3- Stöppler, M. C., MD. (n.d.). 7 Gestational Diabetes Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Diet & Tests. Retrieved March 3, 2017, from http://www.medicinenet.com/gestational_diabetes/article.html

1- (n.d.). What is Gestational Diabetes? Retrieved March 03, 2017, from http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/gestational/what-is-gestational-diabetes.html

2- (n.d.). Insulin: Compare common options for insulin therapy. Retrieved March 03, 2017, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/insulin/art-20050970

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