Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy in women who do not already have diabetes. It usually develops in the second or third trimester and disappears after delivery. However, women with gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Gestational diabetes often does not cause any symptoms. However, some women may experience symptoms such as:
- Increased thirst
- Need to urinate more often
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Genital itching
During pregnancy, your body produces hormones that help your baby grow and develop. These hormones can also make your body’s cells less sensitive to insulin, a hormone that helps your body use sugar for energy. This insulin resistance can lead to high blood sugar levels, which is the hallmark of gestational diabetes.
You are at increased risk of developing gestational diabetes if you:
- Are overweight or obese
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Have had previous pregnancies with gestational diabetes
- Are over the age of 25
- Are of African American, Hispanic, Native American, or Asian descent
Gestational diabetes is usually diagnosed during a routine prenatal screening test. The most common test is the glucose challenge test, which involves drinking a sugary solution and having your blood sugar tested one hour later. If your blood sugar level is high, you will be asked to take a glucose tolerance test, which involves drinking more sugary solution and having your blood sugar tested at several points over the next two to three hours.
The goal of gestational diabetes treatment is to keep your blood sugar levels under control to protect you and your baby from complications. Treatment may include:
- Dietary changes: You must eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You may also need to limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks.
- Exercise: Regular physical activity can help lower your blood sugar levels. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
- Blood sugar monitoring: You must monitor your blood sugar levels regularly. How often you need to check your blood sugar depends on your needs.
- Medications: You may need to take medication to control your blood sugar levels.
There is no guaranteed way to prevent gestational diabetes. However, the following steps may help reduce your risk:
- Maintain a healthy weight before and during pregnancy
- Eat a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
Even if you do not have any symptoms, it is essential to manage gestational diabetes to protect you and your baby from complications. These complications can include:
- Excessive birth weight: Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are more likely to be larger than average, which can increase the risk of delivery complications.
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar): Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes may have low blood sugar levels after birth.
- Jaundice: Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are more likely to develop jaundice, a condition that causes the skin and eyes to turn yellow.
- Preeclampsia: Preeclampsia is a severe pregnancy complication that can lead to high blood pressure, seizures, and liver and kidney damage.
Tips for managing gestational diabetes
Here are some tips for managing gestational diabetes:
- Work with your healthcare team: Your healthcare team will create the right treatment plan for you.
- Follow your diet and exercise plan: Eating a healthy diet and regular exercise can help control your blood sugar levels.
- Monitor your blood sugar levels regularly: Checking your blood sugar levels regularly will help you track your progress and make necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.
- Take your medications as prescribed: If you are taking medication to control your blood sugar levels, be sure to take it as directed by your doctor.
- Get enough rest: Sleep can help you manage your blood sugar levels.
- Manage stress: Stress can raise your blood sugar levels. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as yoga or meditation.
- Educate yourself about gestational diabetes: The more you know about gestational diabetes, the better equipped you will be to manage your condition.
Gestational diabetes can be a challenging condition, but it is essential to remember that you are not alone. You can have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby with proper management.