I fielded a question the other day on my Facebook page regarding the effects gestational diabetes has on the body. Well, I’ll be honest with you. Even as a type 1 diabetic, dealing with the daily highs and lows, I wasn’t 100% sure, so lets take a closer look!
Gestational diabetes is a kind of diabetes that comes on during pregnancy. It affects about 4% of all pregnant women, according to the American Diabetes Association. Gestational diabetes is often diagnosed on screening tests done between weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy.
While doctors aren’t sure what causes gestational diabetes, it is believed that hormones from the placenta may block the action of insulin in the mother. This means that the mother needs more insulin and sometimes her pancreas cannot make enough to transport the sugar in the blood into the cells for energy. The mother’s blood has high levels of glucose, which can cross the placenta, giving the growing baby a high blood sugar level.
Gestational Diabetes & Pregnancy:
Gestational diabetes is caused by a change in the way a woman’s body responds to insulin during pregnancy. Insulin is a hormone. It moves glucose out of the blood and into the body’s cells where it can be turned into energy. During pregnancy, a woman’s cells naturally become slightly more resistant to insulin’s effects. This change is designed to increase the mother’s blood glucose level to make more nutrients available to the baby. The mother’s body makes more insulin to keep the blood glucose level normal. In a small number of women, even this increase is not enough to keep their blood glucose levels in the normal range. As a result, they develop gestational diabetes.
Signs & Symptoms:
The symptoms of gestational diabetes are not very prominent and are similar to that of pregnancy. Hence, they are not easily distinguished. Listed below are few of the symptoms you can experience during pregnancy.
- Feeling thirsty often
- Frequent urination
- Bladder infection
- Vaginal infection
- Blurred vision
- Visible loss of weight
Gestational Diabetes Risk Factors:
If you develop high blood sugar levels because your gestational diabetes is not under control, your baby will also have high blood glucose. Your baby’s pancreas will have to make extra insulin to control the high blood glucose. The extra glucose in your baby’s blood is stored as fat.
If left untreated or uncontrolled gestational diabetes can cause complications for your baby, some of those complications include:
Your baby also might be born with jaundice. Jaundice is more common in newborns of mothers who had diabetes during their pregnancy. With jaundice, the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow. Jaundice usually goes away, but your baby may need to be placed under special lights to help. Making sure your baby gets plenty of milk from breastfeeding will also help the jaundice go away.
Your baby will be more likely to become overweight and develop type 2 diabetes as he or she grows up
You’ll need to keep diligent track of your glucose levels, using a home glucose meter or strips. To keep those levels where they should be, you’ll want to:
- Eat a well-planned diet. The American Diabetes Association recommends getting nutritional counseling from a registered dietitian who’ll help you develop specific meal and snack plans based on your height, weight, and activity level.
- Your diet must have the correct balance of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, while providing the proper vitamins, minerals, and calories. To keep your glucose levels stable, it’s particularly important that you don’t skip meals, especially breakfast, and that you avoid sugary items like candy, cookies, cakes, and soda.
- This may sound daunting, but it’s not so hard once you get the hang of it. And don’t think of yourself as being on a special or restrictive diet. The principles of the diabetic diet are good ones for everyone to follow. Think of this as an opportunity to create healthier eating habits for yourself and your whole family. If everyone in the house is eating the same foods, you won’t feel as deprived.
- Exercise. Studies show that moderate exercise also helps improve your body’s ability to process glucose, keeping blood sugar levels in check. Many women with gestational diabetes benefit from 30 minutes of aerobic activity, such as walking or swimming, each day. Ask your practitioner what level of physical activity would be beneficial for you.
- Take medication if necessary. If you’re not able to control your blood sugar well enough with diet and exercise alone, your provider will prescribe medication as well. About 15 percent of women with gestational diabetes need medication. Most patients start with oral medication now instead of injections.
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