Gestational diabetes is a condition in which the blood sugar levels become high during pregnancy. It happens when your body cannot produce enough insulin – a hormone that helps control blood sugar levels – to meet your extra needs in pregnancy. It can occur at any stage of pregnancy, but is more common in the second or third trimester.
Gestational diabetes can cause problems for you and your baby during pregnancy and after birth. It can affect your baby’s health, and it raises your risk of getting type 2 diabetes later in life but the risks can be reduced if the condition is detected early and well managed.
Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes
Most cases are only discovered when your blood sugar levels are tested during screening for gestational diabetes. Some women may develop the follwoing symptoms if their blood sugar levels get too high (hyperglycaemia),
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- A dry mouth
Causes of Gestational Diabetes
When you eat, your pancreas releases insulin for converting glucose into energy that you need for living. During pregnancy, your placenta makes hormones that cause glucose to build up in your blood. Usually, the pancreas can send out enough insulin to handle it. But if the body can’t make enough insulin or is unable to properly use it, sugar levels in the blood increase and lead to gestational diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes Risk Factors
Any woman can develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, but you’re at a higher risk if you:
- Are older than 25
- Have a body mass index (BMI) is above 30 – use the healthy weight calculator to work out your BMI
- Previously had a baby who weighed 4.5kg (10lb) or more at birth
- Have given birth to a baby who was stillborn or had certain birth defects
- Had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- Have 1 of your parents or siblings diagnosed with diabetes
- Are of south Asian, Black, African-Caribbean or Middle Eastern origin (even if you were born in the UK)
- Were overweight before you got pregnant
- Have high blood pressure or other medical complications
If any of these apply to you, you should be offered screening for gestational diabetes during your pregnancy.
Gestational Diabetes Tests and Diagnosis
Gestational diabetes usually happens in the second half of pregnancy. While testing, your doctor will give you a glucose challenge or glucose screening test. He will ask you to drink something sweet to raise your blood sugar. An hour later, you’ll take a blood test to see how your body handled all that sugar. If the results show that your blood sugar is higher than a certain level, usually around 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), you’ll need an oral glucose tolerance test. This means checking your blood sugar after going without food and having a 3-hour glucose test.
If you’re at high risk but your test results are normal, your doctor might test you again later in your pregnancy to make sure you still don’t have it.
Gestational Diabetes Treatment
If you have gestational diabetes, you’ll need treatment as soon as possible to keep yourself and your baby healthy during your pregnancy and delivery. Your doctor will ask you to:
- Check your blood sugar levels four or more times a day
- Check your urine for ketones, chemicals that mean that your diabetes isn’t under control
- Eat a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
Your doctor will keep track of your weight and your baby’s development. He might give you insulin or another medicine to keep your blood sugar under control.
Diet and Exercise for Gestational Diabetes
You can stay healthy by following the given steps;
- Eat a healthy, low-sugar diet. Follow a meal plan made for someone with diabetes. Talk to your doctor to be sure you’re getting the nutrition you need. Trade sugary snacks like cookies, candy, and ice cream for natural sugars like fruits, carrots, and raisins for vegetables and whole grains, and watch your portion sizes.
- Lose excess weight before you get pregnant: Doctors don’t recommend you lose weight during pregnancy. Dropping extra pounds before you get pregnant can make for a healthier pregnancy.
- Exercise throughout your pregnancy. Get active as soon as possible. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. Running, walking, swimming, and biking are all good options.
- Get appropriate prenatal care: Not only can your doctor screen you for this condition; He can offer advice on food, activity and weight loss and might point you to other health professionals, like nutritionists, that can help.
Gestational Diabetes Prevention
You can lower your risk before you get pregnant by:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Staying active
- Losing extra weight
P.S: If you are taking good care of yourself during pregnancy, there’s nothing to worry about 🙂