Being pregnant for many mothers means a lot of new experiences, body changes, doctor visits, and having your cabinets lined with prenatal vitamins. However, some soon to be mothers might have a more difficult pregnancy when they develop gestational diabetes. So what is gestational diabetes?
According to HCA gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs or is first recognized during pregnancy, and usually is noticed around 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. Glucose plays an important role in breaking down the food you eat. In turn insulin helps glucose move to your cells. Once the glucose is in your cells it is used for energy. When your body has a hard time making or using insulin, glucose cannot move into your cells causing it to build up. Once you develop gestational diabetes it can affect both you and the baby in your womb. The silver lining in all this is most women with gestational diabetes who are treated don’t remain diabetic after the baby is born.
Women who are 25 years or older are more prone to developing gestational diabetes. It is also more common in women of Hispanic, African-American, Native-American, Asian-American, Indigenous, Australian, or a Pacific Islander descent. Other factors that might also increase the risk of the disease include being overweight, having gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, having a family history of type 2 diabetes, previous delivery of a large baby, history of polycystic ovary syndrome, previous still birth or having too much fluid surrounding the baby during pregnancy, and carrying two or more babies.
So how do you know if you have this condition? Usually there are no symptoms but if they do occur they may include increased urination, thirst, hunger, weakness, vaginal or urinary tract infections. The best way to find out if you have this form of diabetes is to get tested. As part of prenatal screenings most hospitals test for diabetes around 24-28 weeks of gestation. To determine if you have this condition HCA gives patients a drink that has a special glucose solution and once the drink is finished doctors will measure the amount of glucose in your blood.
Can it affect your baby? Yes! Diabetes that is not controlled can lead to your baby becoming overfed and you having a large baby. During delivery the baby could be born with nerve damage due to pressure on the shoulder. With a larger baby you might need a C-section to deliver the baby. As many mothers know, that with a baby which is delivered by a C-section recovery takes much longer.
How do you get your blood glucose levels to become normal? There are several ways to get glucose levels back on track: one includes dieting. By eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, veggies, and high fiber foods you will be one step closer to keeping both you and your baby healthy. Another important tip is to have portion sized meals and keeping track of your food intake. As tempting as it might be to give into your food and drink cravings, many of which are probably loaded with sugar, it’s safe to say you may need to stay away from soda, candy, and cookies. Stuck on ideas to keep your glucose in check- visit the CDC‘s website as it offers many healthy recipes for those seeking healthy alternatives.
Another great way to get your body to use glucose is by exercising. But before you grab your running shoes it’s best to consult with your doctor about what exercises are best for you. Also by using a blood glucose monitor you can check your glucose levels which will help you plan your meals, activities, and medications. To control your diabetes a doctor might suggest insulin injections however it is best to ask about the pros and cons of this option.
St. Joseph’s Hospital offers individual appointments where you can speak to experienced dietitians, diabetes educators, and registered nurses about diabetes management and education along with receiving diagnostic testing.
Are there ways to prevent gestational diabetes? Yes, exercising, and eating healthy are the first steps toward preventing this condition. Also try to not gain more than the recommended amount during pregnancy as it could increase your chances of developing gestational diabetes.