Making sure you have a safe pregnancy.
When it comes to diabetes, most of the headlines and discussions swirl around Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. They are, after all, the two primary forms of the disease that more than 34 million Americans live with every day, the vast majority of whom have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
However, there’s another form of diabetes worth understanding and that’s gestational diabetes.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
This form of diabetes can appear in women who become pregnant and do not have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes prior to their pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year between 2% and 10% of pregnancies in the United States are impacted by gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually disappears after giving birth, however, while pregnancy, if not quickly identified and properly managed poses some serious concerns for both mother and child.
What Causes Gestational Diabetes?
The truth is we don’t know exactly why some women develop gestational diabetes. What we do know is that it can happen during any stage of pregnancy but is most common in the second or third trimester. This is when the body is going through the greatest changes, producing more hormones, putting on extra weight, and getting deeper into the pregnancy.
Sometimes, these changes can cause the mother’s body to use insulin less effectively, resulting in an increased level of insulin resistance. All pregnant women experience some form of insulin resistance during the later stages of pregnancy. However, those who develop gestational diabetes experience this far more dramatically.
Insulin is what the body needs to process blood sugar. When the body can’t use it correctly during pregnancy, blood sugar builds up and eventually leads to hyperglycemia and a gestational diabetes diagnosis.
Am I at Risk for Gestational Diabetes?
Any woman can develop gestational diabetes once pregnant. However, there are some contributing factors that increase risk. They include:
– Being overweight/obese prior to pregnancy
– Having given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds in the past
– A family history of Type 2 diabetes
– Were diagnosed with gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
– Ethnicity can also play a role with African American, Hispanic, Native American, Alaskan Native and Hawaiian Native individuals at higher risk
Related Concerns for Mom and Baby
It’s important to note that most women who develop gestational diabetes go on to have otherwise normal and perfectly healthy pregnancies and babies. The key is diagnosing the condition early and treating it properly. Still, there are some concerns for you and your baby that you should be aware of, such as:
– The baby can grow larger than usual leading to difficulties in delivery that may require a caesarean section
– A condition known as polyhydramnios, the production of too much amniotic fluid in the womb, can lead to premature labor and difficulties at delivery
– Premature birth, which can cause breathing and other disorders in the infant
– Pre-eclampsia, a condition that causes high blood pressure during pregnancy that can lead to complications
– Low blood sugar in the baby after being born, which may require immediate treatment in the hospital
Can I Prevent Gestational Diabetes?
There’s no way to guarantee you won’t develop gestational diabetes. However, if prior to your pregnancy you are maintaining a healthy weight, eating right, and getting in regular physical activity, it will reduce your risk. NEVER try to lose weight once you are pregnant. You’ll need to gain weight at a gradual pace for both you and your baby to be healthy. Every woman is different. Talk to your doctor about how much weight you should gain for a healthy pregnancy.
Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes
As with other forms of diabetes, most of the time gestational diabetes doesn’t cause any noticeable symptoms until the disease has already developed. That’s why it’s so important to be screened either prior to getting pregnant or soon after you become pregnant, particularly if you have any of the contributing risk factors listed above. That being said, there are some symptoms that may present themselves once you’ve developed gestational diabetes. They include:
– Increased thirst or a dry mouth
– More frequent urination
– In rare instances blurred vision may be a sign
Screening for Gestational Diabetes
If you have one or more risk factors for developing gestational diabetes, chances are your doctor will test your blood sugar levels when you’re between 24 and 28 weeks pregnant. If you’ve experienced gestational diabetes in the past, you will likely be screened even sooner. A simple blood test can determine whether your blood sugar levels are higher than normal and warrant a gestational diabetes diagnosis.
Treating Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is usually temporary and while you’re dealing with it the condition is very manageable. The key, as with any form of diabetes, is controlling blood sugar levels. There are a number of ways to do this, and your physician will work with you to formulate a plan that works for your pregnancy.
Diet and Exercise
Often the elevations in blood sugar that occur during gestational diabetes can be managed with lifestyle and dietary changes. If this is the case, you won’t need to take any medication.
If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to keep your blood sugar in check, you may require medication. This may in be in the form of oral prescriptions or you may need to administer insulin by either insulin syringe or insulin pen, an easier and more convenient way to inject the hormone.
Regular Blood Sugar Testing
Once diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you’ll be given a blood sugar testing kit that includes a glucose meter, test strips and lancets (a sharp device to prick the finger). How often you need to test will depend on your individual diagnosis and your doctor’s instructions. However, you will need to test your blood sugar regularly to avoid going too high or too low.
Your doctor will monitor your baby’s growth and development closely to make sure the steps you’re taking to manage gestational diabetes are effectively ensuring a safe and healthy pregnancy.
Developing Type 2 Diabetes After Pregnancy
There is one alarming fact surrounding gestational diabetes post-childbirth that’s worth noting. According to the CDC, about 50% of women with gestational diabetes go on to develop Type 2 diabetes, which is a lifelong condition and will require careful management and treatment for the rest of your days. In other words, you want to avoid this if at all possible. The risk is dramatically higher for those who are overweight, so by reaching a healthy bodyweight after your baby is delivered and making the right dietary and lifestyle choices, you can lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes only impacts a small percentage of pregnant women. However, if you are among them, it’s something that requires your close attention. There’s no reason you and your child can’t enjoy a happy, healthy, and entirely ordinary pregnancy provided you take the necessary steps to manage your condition.
We hope you found this post informative and helpful. At Diabetic Warehouse, we committed to helping those with diabetes improve blood sugar control conveniently and affordably with a complete selection of diabetic supplies and equipment at prices up to 65% less than you’ll find at pharmacies and other suppliers.
Diabetic Warehouse is a trusted supplier of diabetes care products and accessories. For more information and to explore a complete range of products, including glucose meters and test strips, insulin syringes, pen needles, continuous glucose monitoring systems, and more, visit www.diabeticwarehouse.org.