If a woman gets diabetes or high blood sugar when she is pregnant, but she never had it before, then she has gestational diabetes.
“Oh, but I never had diabetes before?”
Pregnancy brings along with it a lot of changes in the body. The placenta (system of blood vessels that passes nutrients, blood, and water from mother to fetus) makes certain hormones that interfere with the insulin. So the body needs excess insulin at least thrice the usual amount during pregnancy to overcome this problem.
For most women, the body’s extra insulin is enough to keep their blood sugar levels in the healthy range. But, for about 5% of pregnant women, even the extra insulin isn’t enough to keep their blood sugar level normal. These women develop gestational diabetes.
Being overweight, having a sedentary lifestyle prior to pregnancy and a family history of gestational diabetes increase the risk of the woman to develop gestational diabetes during her pregnancy.
Usually gestational diabetes is detected at 20-24 weeks of pregnancy. In some women it can appear earlier.
Most women who have gestational diabetes give birth to healthy babies, especially when they keep their blood sugar under control.
But in some cases it can cause some complications. They are :
·Macrosomia - Baby’s body is larger than normal. This could cause problems during delivery where the baby is too big to pass out of the birth canal and may need to be delivered by a cesarean
·Early Delivery – Women with gestational diabetes may go into labor earlier than 9 months.
Blood Pressure – Having gestational diabetes increases the chance of developing high blood pressure later in pregnancy, close to delivery. This condition is called preeclampsia.
·Birth defects – Gestational diabetes could cause risk of heart defects in the baby.
·Polyhydramnios – Excess liquid around the baby inside the uterus. This can cause problems for the baby’s growth.
·Hypoglycemia – Baby’s blood sugar can become too low after birth.
·Jaundice – Baby’s eyes and skin may turn yellowish after birth needing treatment and monitoring
·Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) - Baby has trouble breathing. The baby might need oxygen or other help breathing .
Keep in mind that just because a woman has gestational diabetes, it does NOT mean that these problems will occur.
If you or your loved one is diagnosed with gestational diabetes, there is no need to worry or lose hope. There are plenty of measures you can take to have a healthy pregnancy and make it to the due date safely.
Steps to tackle Gestational Diabetes:
1. Know your blood sugar level and keep it under control
Blood sugar levels change through the day based on foods we eat and the level of physical activity. By getting to know the blood sugar levels at different times of the day, you can help the doctor to adjust the treatment program. This can be done at home easily by measuring with a finger prick blood glucose machine (glucometer) a few times a day as instructed by the doctor.
Healthy range for home glucose monitoring levels in gestational diabetes:
2. Eat a healthy diet, as outlined by your health care provider
Eating a balanced diet is common advice during pregnancy. In case of gestational diabetes, a good diet is the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of treatment.
3. Get regular, moderate physical activity
Women with gestational diabetes need regular, moderate physical activity such as walking, prenatal aerobics etc. Always clarify with your doctor before starting any physical activity
4. Maintain a healthy weight gain
If your pre pregnancy weight was within normal limits, then a total of 10-12 kg weight gain throughout your pregnancy is considered healthy. However any sudden weight gain or loss is not good. Also if you were over weight prior to start of your pregnancy then the normal weight gain during pregnancy will also vary.
5. Have regular check- ups with your doctor
Make sure you don’t miss your routine doctor visits throughout your pregnancy when your doctor will keep a record of your weight gain, blood pressure and other parameters. He/she will keep track of your blood sugar values and advice accordingly.
6. Take insulin as prescribed
Sometimes if blood sugars continue to remain high in spite of good diet and physical activity, insulin injections may be necessary. Many oral medications that are used in diabetes cannot be given to pregnant women. Insulin is the safest since it is naturally produced in our body. It does not have any adverse effect on the fetus.
Hope this article has enlightened you about gestational diabetes and some basic steps you can take to deal with it.