As if being pregnant didn’t come with enough challenges!
Approximately 10 percent of pregnant women will develop gestational diabetes. Which places their babies at risk for preterm birth and respiratory problems.
But perhaps even more frightening is that most women with gestational diabetes do not have any symptoms.
This is why a gestational diabetes screening is so crucial. The condition is often only discovered after scheduled testing.
“The important aspect of gestational diabetes is that it has to be monitored carefully throughout the entire pregnancy,” said Dr. Hardison.
“We want our patients to rest assured that, if they develop gestational diabetes, we will work with them and help develop a comprehensive plan for them to follow. This condition is very treatable, and we’ll work together to deliver a healthy baby!”
When do we test for gestational diabetes?
Typically, women have a gestational diabetes screening around 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. Rarely, but sometimes, gestational diabetes can occur before the 24th week.
What Causes Gestational Diabetes?
Research is still being done into the underlying causes of gestational diabetes.
However, they believe it may have to do with how pregnancy hormones and the placenta affect insulin.
The hormones produced by your placenta impair the way insulin functions deep within your cells. As a result, your blood sugar rises.
While it’s natural for your blood sugar to be elevated a bit after eating meals when you’re pregnant, you should try to avoid highly processed carbohydrates, like white flour and sweets.
As your baby grows, so does the placenta. As the placenta develops, it produces more hormones that counteract insulin, creating a cycle that affects both mother and baby.
Usually, gestational diabetes develops in the last half of pregnancy.
How Can Gestational Diabetes Affect My Baby?
With gestational diabetes, there’s a chance that your baby will be a preterm birth.
As a result, your baby may experience respiratory distress syndrome and have difficulty breathing. Breathing problems are a risk for babies whose mothers have gestational diabetes—even if the babies are born at term.
There are other ways that gestational diabetes can affect your baby.
Excessive birth weight
When your baby grows too large, it’s called macrosomia.
Why does it matter? Babies who are more than nine pounds can sustain injuries from being wedged tightly in the birth canal. As a result of these complications, a C-section is sometimes needed.
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
If mother has a tendency toward high blood sugar, baby may have the opposite problem.
Many may develop low blood sugar after they are born because of higher insulin production. In severe cases, it can induce seizures.
We will monitor your baby and if he or she shows any signs of hypoglycemia, it can be treated with through glucose administered intravenously or through a prompt feeding.
Developing Type 2 Diabetes
Children of mothers with gestational diabetes tend to have a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese and, as a result, are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes later in life.
How Does a Gestational Diabetes Diagnosis Affect Me?
Of course, gestational diabetes doesn’t just affect the baby. It causes an increased risk in moms, too.
Perhaps one of the most serious potential complications is preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a serious pregnancy complication that creates high blood pressure and can damage the liver and kidneys. (Mayo Clinic)
You should also realize that if you have a gestational diabetes diagnosis, there’s a much greater risk that you’ll develop Type 2 diabetes.
In fact, according to the CDC, half of those with gestational diabetes will go on to develop Type 2 diabetes.
Am I at Risk for Gestational Diabetes?
If you have any of the following, we’d like to speak with you about your potential risk for developing gestational diabetes.
These risk factors are:
- If you’re over 25 years old
- If you have a family history of gestational diabetes
- If you have prediabetes
- If you had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy
- If you are African-American, Hispanic, Native American or Asian
- If you have a body mass index of 30 or higher (not sure of your BMI? You can calculate it at the Centers for Disease Control website!
What Are the Signs of Gestational Diabetes?
In most cases, there are no signs and symptoms of gestational diabetes, which is why it’s so important to be tested for diabetes during pregnancy.
What Should My Blood Sugar Levels Be During Pregnancy?
If you have a gestational diabetes diagnosis, we will have you meet with a dietician to help you make healthy food choices. We will also ask you to check your blood sugar in the morning and after meals.
We will review this information with you in order to support you and discuss your progress.
Following are some useful guidelines for blood sugar levels during pregnancy from the American Diabetes Association.
- Before a meal: 95 mg/dl or less
- One hour after a meal: 140 mg/dl or less
- Two hours after a meal: 120 mg/dl or less
We will support you throughout the process and review your levels at each visit. We can help you keep your blood sugar under control and help you deliver a healthy baby.
How is Gestational Diabetes Treated?
Gestational diabetes is highly treatable.
Remember that you’ve got an entire team of dedicated doctors, midwives, nurses and other health care professionals in your corner. Together we can help you overcome the challenges presented by gestational diabetes.
Typically, it’s managed by following a nutritional plan that centers on eating healthy food in the right amount at the right time.
Physical activity is also important, and we’ll be glad to provide information on some safe, yet effective, exercises to do during pregnancy.
If you have a gestational diabetes diagnosis, we’ll carefully monitor your baby through all stages of development.
Remember that there are often no signs and symptoms of gestational diabetes, so a gestational diabetes screening is very important.
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American Diabetes Association. “Gestational Diabetes.”
Centers for Disease Control. “Gestational Diabetes.”
Mayo Clinic. “Gestational Diabetes.”