Gestational Diabetes or Pregnancy Diabetes is diagnosed during pregnancy. It usually occurs in the second trimester and goes away as soon as your baby is born.
It produces the same symptoms as regular diabetes, i.e., your body is unable to produce enough insulin, which leads to too much blood sugar in your bloodstream.
If left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause complications during your pregnancy and at the time of childbirth.
Fortunately, managing gestational diabetes is possible. You just need to follow a healthy lifestyle, eat well, and practice regular exercise to keep you and your fetus safe.
While diabetes disappears after delivery in most cases, gestational diabetes puts you at a greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes in the future.
So, it’s important that you get your blood sugar levels in check to reduce the risk.
Since gestational diabetes is associated with pregnancy, it’s believed that hormonal changes cause this diabetes.
It’s mostly caused by the placental hormones, although it’s still not known why these hormones interfere with your insulin function.
The beta cells in your pancreas produce insulin, a hormone responsible for breaking down glucose from your food and transferring it to the cells in your body.
It also maintains a healthy and balanced glucose level in your bloodstream. However, excess sugar builds up in your bloodstream if your insulin stops functioning, increasing your blood glucose levels.
Hormones might interfere with the way your insulin works and might stop its functioning altogether or reduce it to some extent during pregnancy.
People who have a family history of gestational diabetes or are overweight with a 25+ BMI are at a greater risk.
Anyone can develop gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy, but a few things might put you at a higher risk. They include
Researchers are still searching for why some women develop gestational diabetes while others experience a healthy pregnancy. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy definitely affects your hormone levels, increasing your risk.
Gestational diabetes is difficult to diagnose as it does not produce any symptoms in the first stages.
It’s important to check your blood sugar levels at home or consult your gynecologist regularly (especially if you have a history of gestational diabetes).
You might only notice excess thirst and frequent trips to the bathroom, but those are often confused with pregnancy symptoms.
In most cases, diabetes is diagnosed after a regular blood test. However, leaving it unmanaged can cause a sudden increase in your blood glucose levels, which might further lead to hyperglycemia. Watch out for the below symptoms:
Note that gestational diabetes has the same symptoms that you notice during pregnancy, so women often neglect them. Unfortunately, there’s also no warning sign of gestational diabetes.
Since it occurs in the second trimester and produces the same symptoms as pregnancy, your best bet is to see a gynecologist for regular blood screening tests.
Your gynecologist will conduct a screening test for gestational diabetes if they believe you are at a higher risk of developing the disease.
The doctor might order a glucose challenge test in which the doctor gives you a glucose syrup solution and tests your blood glucose levels an hour later.
Glucose levels below 140 mg/dL are considered normal, while if it’s higher than 190 mg/dL, you are at risk of gestational diabetes.
If your blood glucose levels turn out higher than normal, the doctor might recommend a follow-up test to determine if you have gestational diabetes. This time they will give you a sweeter syrup and check your glucose levels every three hours.
As mentioned above, women with gestational diabetes in their first pregnancy are at a high risk of getting it again in their future pregnancies.
They might also get type 2 diabetes. So, monitoring your blood glucose levels regularly and keeping them in check is important to ensure you don’t develop gestational diabetes.
Your healthcare provider will refer you to a nutritionist specializing in gestational diabetes. They will check your diet and recommend modifications to bring your blood glucose levels to a safer level.
They will tell you the normal blood sugar levels before and after meals and the other steps you can take to bring these levels down.
You may have to visit the doctor more often for prenatal checkups, especially to ensure that your baby is growing well and there’s no risk of complications.
If you gain weight or notice any unusual symptoms, such as dizziness, changes in vision, and excess vomiting, consult your gynecologist immediately.
Unmanaged gestational diabetes can increase the risk of complications for you and the fetus. If left untreated, it can cause the following complications.
In rare cases, the baby might suffer from stillbirth—in which the baby is either born dead or dies shortly after delivery.
The complications from gestational diabetes do not only affect the mother, but it can be dangerous for the baby’s health in the long run.
So, getting appropriate treatment is a must. If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, your primary goal should be maintaining your blood glucose levels.
You can’t prevent gestational diabetes, but some steps go a long way in reducing your risk.
If you are already diagnosed with the condition, managing your glucose levels can help you prevent complications in your pregnancy or reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.
Eat Healthy Food: Customizing your diet to control your blood sugar levels is the first step to reducing the risk of gestational diabetes.
You should consult a dietician who can create a customized diet plan for your pregnancy. Ideally, your diet should be rich in fiber and low in calories.
Add more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your diet, and pay special attention to the portion sizes.
Stay Active: Practicing exercise before and during pregnancy can also lower your risk of developing gestational diabetes.
Your body needs at least 30 minutes of physical exercise daily. Moderate exercise is enough.
Just go for a walk, practice cycling, do yoga & meditation try swimming, and join a gym for basic physical exercises to keep your body moving.
Even small steps, like walking to work or parking your car a further away from the grocery store, can help manage your blood glucose levels.
Keep Your Weight in Check: Planning your pregnancy beforehand will give you enough time to shed those extra pounds before you conceive so that you are at a lower risk of gestational diabetes induced by obesity.
Your gynecologist will recommend modifications in your diet and some healthy changes that you must start right away for a healthy pregnancy.
Don’t Gain Too Much Weight: Your gynecologist will recommend you gain weight during pregnancy for your baby’s health, but gaining too much of it too quickly can put you at a greater risk of developing gestational diabetes.
So, ask about the ideal weight during pregnancy and how much you should put on.
Monitor Blood Sugar Regularly: Symptoms are often not enough in diagnosing gestational diabetes, so your best bet is to bring a blood glucose monitor at home and check the glucose levels regularly.
If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, check your blood glucose first thing in the morning (before breakfast) and after your three meals. Report the numbers to the doctor to ensure your glucose levels are managed.
For a balanced diet for Gestational Diabetes, you need to include a variety of healthy and nutritious foods during pregnancy. You should always check food labels and their ingredients.
If you are a vegan or following another diet, talk with your healthcare provider regarding the diet plan.
Lean proteins: Proteins are a must during pregnancy as they are the building block for the body and help your child indispensably. These foods help you to feel full and are essential building blocks for your baby’s growth.
Vegetables to Eat: Vegetables are really good during diabetes as they provide important vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and are very low in carbs.
Healthy fats: You cannot avoid every fatty food. But must include healthy fats as they are beneficial for your heart health and baby’s growth.
Complex carbohydrates: Our body needs carbs for energy, fiber, and certain nutrients.
If you are eating a gestational diabetes diet, avoid these foods:
Basically, avoid sweetened foods and beverages as much as you can. It’s just a wait of nine months. You can surely enjoy all these afterward. So let’s avoid the above foods and prevent gestational diabetes for a healthy baby.
Gestational diabetes is controlled easily with diet modifications and other lifestyle changes. However, if your diet isn’t helping, you may need medication. Ask your doctor about the most viable treatment.
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Thanks for this blog. I read it completely and found it so informative. Pregnancy Diabetes are getting more common today among women due to lifestyle issues. I think proper diet and lifestyle changes impacts a lot during pregnancy. Looking forwards for more information and blogs on women’s health.
Thanks for your input. Yes, lifestyle issue these days leads to pregnancy issue. A good and disciplined lifestyle keeps our body and mind away from most of the health problems.