In 2015, an estimated 1% of pregnant women in the United States had gestational diabetes, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends testing all pregnant women between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation who risk developing gestational diabetes.
You know how important it is to manage your gestational diabetes if you are pregnant. It will make pregnancy healthier for Mom and baby, but it also helps prevent health problems for the baby later in life. Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that can happen with pregnancy, and it has to do with how your pancreas works during your pregnancy. If you do not control gestational diabetes, you and your baby are more likely to have complications.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. It usually goes away after delivery but may remain for years and increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later.
Pregnancy hormones prevent the body from using insulin efficiently, causing glucose levels to rise above the ordinary. High blood sugar can cause severe complications for both mother and baby if left untreated.
Why Should You Manage Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes can affect the mother’s health and the baby’s health. If left untreated, gestational diabetes can lead to:
- Preeclampsia: This is a severe condition that causes high blood pressure during pregnancy. It also increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life and can cause severe problems for babies born to mothers who have preeclampsia during pregnancy. Preeclampsia affects about 7% of pregnancies. It often requires early baby delivery because it puts both mother and child at risk of severe complications if it is not treated immediately.
- Premature Birth: Babies born prematurely are more likely than full-term infants to have breathing problems, feeding difficulties, or other medical problems after birth. Premature babies also have an increased risk of long-term disabilities such as cerebral palsy due to oxygen deprivation caused by premature birth.
- Caesarean Delivery: A C-section is often done when the mother has high blood sugar levels or if the baby is not growing properly in the womb. Other times, a woman may need a C-section because of her medical conditions. For example:
The placenta partially or completely covers the cervix (the opening to the uterus). This can make it hard for oxygen and nutrients to reach the fetus, and it can also cause bleeding during labor or birth.
- High blood sugar levels (Hyperglycaemia): High glucose levels in the blood can damage organs such as the eyes, kidneys, and nerves. If left untreated, high blood sugar levels can cause problems for both mother and child, including bigger babies that are more challenging to deliver vaginally.
- Insulin Resistance: Insulin resistance occurs when your body does not respond appropriately to insulin — a hormone produced by your pancreas that helps regulate blood glucose levels by helping move glucose out of the bloodstream into cells used for energy. Insulin resistance during pregnancy may increase your risk for developing gestational diabetes, and after pregnancy, there is a risk of type 2 Diabetes.
- Stillbirth or other Congenital Disabilities: Gestational diabetes is associated with an increased risk of stillbirth or other congenital disabilities, such as heart problems, vision problems, or brain damage. Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are more likely to be born early or large for their gestational age.
- Macrosomia (Large Baby): Babies born to women with gestational diabetes are more likely to have macrosomia (a larger-than-average baby). The increased size of the baby may lead to complications during delivery.
- Preeclampsia: Pre-eclampsia is a condition that causes high blood pressure during pregnancy. It occurs in 5% of pregnancies in women without diabetes and 10-15% of pregnancies in women with diabetes. If not treated, preeclampsia can be life-threatening for both mother and baby.
- Miscarriage: Gestational diabetes is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage early in pregnancy (before 14 weeks).
- Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR): Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are at increased risk of IUGR, which means they are smaller than babies who do not have gestational diabetes. Low birth weight is a risk factor for complications later in life, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Is there a possibility that I will develop diabetes after having my baby?
It is common to develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, but it does not mean that you will have the disease after birth. About half of all women with gestational diabetes will return to normal blood sugar levels once they give birth, and the other half may need to take medication or insulin shots to keep their blood sugar under control.
If you developed gestational diabetes during your pregnancy, there is a chance you could set it again later in life. But there are things you can do to lower your chances of getting it again.
What should I do if I have gestational diabetes?
If you have gestational diabetes, you need to watch your blood sugar closely and maintain a healthy diet. Women with gestational diabetes can control their blood sugar by eating healthy foods and exercising.
The following suggestions can help you manage your blood sugar:
- Eat small meals every three or four hours. Eating slowly and chewing your food well might help you feel full faster and avoid overeating.
- Avoid high-sugar foods such as cookies, cakes, candy, and sugary soft drinks. Choose whole grains instead of refined grains (e.g., white bread).
- Limit the amount of fat in your diet to less than 30% of total calories (about sixty-five grams of total fat a day for most adults). Choose unsaturated fats like olive oil instead of saturated fats like butter or fatty cuts of meat.
- Choose lean meats such as chicken or fish instead of red meats such as beef or pork high in saturated fats. Limit other protein sources such as eggs and cheese because these also may be high in saturated fats depending on how they are prepared – however, egg whites are an excellent source of protein and do not contain any fat at all!
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables every day — especially green leafy vegetables such as spinach or kale (but avoid corn if you have corn allergies).
When you manage your gestational diabetes, you and your baby benefit. Gestational diabetes affects the mother and our most precious gift-our children. Managing gestational diabetes during pregnancy reduces the risk of complications for mothers and babies. Managing your glucose levels during pregnancy and after delivery may help prevent you from developing Type 2 diabetes after the baby is born.