I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes a couple of months ago and I thought that I would share a little bit of information about it, as it has changed the way that I have been doing my diet and exercise. This is by no means a comprehensive guide, so please if you have questions or concerns about gestational diabetes, consult your physician.
Gestational Diabetes is a form of diabetes that affects pregnant women, most women develop it around the 24th week of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes starts when your body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy. Without enough insulin, glucose cannot leave the blood and be changed to energy. Glucose builds up in the blood to high levels. This is called hyperglycemia (American Diabetes Association).
How Gestational Diabetes Affects Baby
Although gestational diabetes doesn’t cause major birth defects, it can cause complications for baby. Because baby’s blood sugar is normal, when yours is uncontrolled, it has adverse effects on your baby. Although insulin does not cross the placenta, glucose and other nutrients do. So extra blood glucose goes through the placenta, giving the baby high blood glucose levels. This causes the baby’s pancreas to make extra insulin to get rid of the blood glucose. Since the baby is getting more energy than it needs to grow and develop, the extra energy is stored as fat. Storing this fat leads baby to gain extra weight more quickly than he or she should, which can cause problems during the birthing process, especially if the baby weighs more than 9 pounds.
Shortly after birth, your baby may have low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) because his or her body will still be producing extra insulin in response to your excess glucose. This is much more likely if your blood sugar levels were high during pregnancy and especially during labor. Your labor and delivery team will treat baby’s hypoblycemia promptly, by either having you feed baby or in more severe cases, giving baby an iv of glucose solution.
How is Gestational Diabetes Diagnosed?
Gestational diabetes usually has no symptoms. That’s why almost all pregnant women have a glucose-screening test between 24 and 28 weeks. Typically, your doctor will order a one hour fasting glucose test, where your blood sugar is tested, then you drink a sweet liquid and it is tested again after an hour. If you fail this first test, your doctor might then order another test where your blood sugar is tested every hour for three hours.
How is gestational diabetes treated?
Gestational diabetes is treated by controlling your blood sugar. Your doctor will have you take blood sugar readings with a glucose-meter several times a day, depending on what your test results said. I take mine four times a day, in the morning when I get up, then two hours after each meal. (This doesn’t mean that you can’t take it more if you feel it’s necessary — if your sugar is low and your dizzy and shakey, take it and then have a snack if you need it.) These numbers that you get from testing will help you control the number of carbs that you eat at each meal in order to keep your blood sugar in the range that your doctor wants. Your doctor will probably also have you meet with a nutritionist to discuss your diet changes. I’ve been doing great following the 21 Day Fix plan modified for pregnancy.
My typical day looks somewhat like this:
Exercise is also an important part of maintaining your blood sugar as it helps to lower the amount of sugar in your system. My gestational diabetes up to this point has been controlled by diet and exercise. If you get a high blood sugar reading after a meal, going for a walk can help lower your numbers. If you’re exercising pay close attention to your blood glucose levels as it can cause them to drop too low. If you’re away from home, carry your phone and a carby snack or glucose tablets in case you need them.
If you’re having trouble controlling your blood glucose levels with diet and exercise alone, your doctor may prescribe medication to help you maintain your levels. About 15 percent of women with gestational diabetes need medication. Most patients start with oral medication now instead of injections.