What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a condition that can develop during pregnancy (gestation). Like Type 1 and 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes shifts how your cells use sugar (glucose).
During pregnancy, the placenta releases hormones necessary for baby’s growth. These hormones can also block the action of the mother’s insulin, creating a condition known as insulin resistance. The expectant mother can’t effectively produce or use insulin. As a result, glucose cannot leave the blood and be converted to energy. This increases the risk of dramatic blood sugar swings, high blood pressure and complications at delivery.
Any woman can develop gestational diabetes, but some women are at greater risk. Risk factors include:
- Age over 25. Women older than 25 are move likely to develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy
- Family or personal health history. If you have prediabetes –slightly elevated blood sugar that may be a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Additionally, you are at risk if a family member has type 2 diabetes. Other health indictors include, if you have had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy, delivered a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds or had an unexplained stillbirth.
- Excess weight. You are at risk of developing gestational diabetes if you’re significantly overweight with a body mass index (BMI) over 30.
- Nonwhite race. For unknown reasons, women who are black, Asian, American Indian, or Hispanic are at higher risk to develop gestational diabetes.
Will My Baby Be Affected?
Yes, your baby can be harmed if gestational diabetes goes untreated. Glucose that cannot leave the mother’s blood, can cross into the placenta. As a result, baby’s pancreas is overtaxed to make extra insulin. This is an attempt to process the excess glucose coming into their system. Baby’s body responds by storing the excess insulin as fat. The complications for baby associated with the build-up of glucose are: a large birth weight, being stuck in the birth canal, a c-section, early (pre-term) birth, respiratory distress syndrome, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), and type 2 diabetes later in life. The key to keeping baby safe and healthy is a pro-active treatment plan as soon as gestational diabetes is detected.
There’s no guarantee when it comes to preventing gestational diabetes, but the more healthy habits that you can establish before pregnancy, the better. You can also reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes in a future pregnancy or type 2 diabetes later in your life. The highest priority habits to develop are:
- Eat healthy foods. Strive to have a healthy balance of fats, protein and carbs that are minimally processed.
- Keep Active. Make goals to ensure that you get in 30 minutes of activity everyday. A walk around the neighborhood, parking the car at the back of the grocery store parking lot, or a fun easy hike. As you become more active, your cells become more sensitive to insulin.
- Lose excess pounds before pregnancy. Releasing 10-15 lbs of weight can have a significant impact on your health as well as your future pregnancy.
Developing gestational diabetes can be concerning. However, most women who develop gestational diabetes deliver healthy babies.
Gestational diabetes is TREATABLE.
Your doctor at Summit OB/GYN will evaluate your risk and monitor your pregnancy for development of gestational diabetes. Whether or not you have any of the risk factors, Dr. Biggs and Dr. Cohn schedule a blood glucose test around week 28 of your pregnancy. If the blood glucose test is positive, you will work with your provider to set up an effective treatment plan that includes a healthy diet, exercise and possibly medication. Taking a pro-active and preventative approach to gestational diabetes, with the help of your doctor at Summit OB/GYN, will ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.