Gestational diabetes and diabetes in pregnancy
Gestational Diabetes refers to high blood glucose (sugar) that is initially seen in a pregnant woman who did not have diabetes before she conceived. The definition is applicable when insulin or diet modification are used in combination or exclusively for treatment, and regardless of whether the condition persists after pregnancy.
Diabetes mellitus in pregnancy is usually more severe compared to Gestational Diabetes Mellitus.
It happens when your body cannot produce enough insulin to match the extra need in pregnancy. This coupled with insulin resistance caused by pregnancy related hormonal changes makes the blood sugar rise further. It mostly occurs in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. Too much glucose in the blood is not good for either you or your baby. Therefore, to secure your health and that of your baby, it is important to take immediate action to manage the blood sugars.
Effects of poorly controlled gestational Diabetes on the baby
High blood glucose can come with the following risks for your baby:
- Premature birth – baby born too early, which might increase their risks of developing complications
- An extra-large baby – Since the blood sugars are too high, the baby ends up being over nourished and grows too big. This can make delivery difficult and the baby might end up being born with nerve damage due to pressure on the shoulder during delivery
- Having low blood glucose immediately after birth due to increased insulin levels occasioned by the mother’s high glucose levels.
- Breathing problems
- Increased chances of developing obesity as a child and type 2 Diabetes as an adult
- Higher risk of having a miscarriage or a stillborn baby
Effects of poorly controlled gestational Diabetes on the mother
High blood glucose can come with the following risks for the mother:
- Development of preeclampsia characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine – Life threatening for both the mother and baby.
- Increased chances of having a caesarian section which takes longer to heal.
- Increased chances of developing diabetes later in life
What increases my chances of developing Gestational Diabetes?
Someone’s chances of developing gestational diabetes increases if:
- You are overweight or obese before getting pregnant. Gaining too much weight while pregnant can also increase this risk
- Having a family history of diabetes
- You had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- You previously delivered a baby weighing more than 4.5 kilograms
- You have been diagnosed with Polycystic ovary syndrome
- You are of advanced age – greater than 35 years
- Sedentary lifestyle during pregnancy
- You are pre-diabetic before pregnancy
Managing and treating Gestational Diabetes
Women with gestational diabetes can manage their blood sugar levels by following a healthy eating plan that confers knowledge on which foods to eat (low-GI foods); how much to eat (portion control) and when to eat (according to your blood glucose levels)
Being physically active – This can help one reach their targeted blood glucose levels and attain healthy levels of blood pressure and cholesterol. Being physically active will also lower your chances of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. Aim for 30 minutes of pregnancy-friendly physical activity, 5 days in a week, even if you were not active before pregnancy.
If following a healthy eating plan and being physically active are not enough to bring your blood sugar levels within the desired ranges, then your doctor may prescribe insulin, which can be used safely during pregnancy.
Reducing the chances of developing gestational diabetes
If you are planning to become pregnant and are overweight or obese, you can reduce your chances of developing gestational diabetes by losing the extra weight through a combination of physical activity and a healthy eating habits. This can also help to reverse their pre-diabetic status and further reduce their risk of developing gestational diabetes.
Once one is pregnant, it is not advisable to lose weight because you need to gain some weight for your baby to be healthy. However, gaining too much weight in a short period may increase your chances of developing gestational diabetes.