Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. Like other types, it affects the way your cells use sugar. Gestational diabetes causes elevated blood sugar levels that can affect pregnancy and the baby’s health. But there is good news. Expectant mothers can manage pregnancy diabetes by following a healthy diet, exercising, and taking medications if necessary. Most often, blood sugar returns to normal soon after delivery. However, pregnancy with diabetes puts you at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Pregnancy diabetes symptoms
Symptoms of gestational diabetes may include increased thirst and more frequent urination. But in most cases, it does not have noticeable signs or symptoms. Therefore, it is necessary to take it into account when planning pregnancy and get checked for it along with your overall wellness. When pregnant, you will be checked for gestational diabetes as part of your prenatal care.
Causes of diabetes during pregnancy
It is not well studied why some women develop diabetes during pregnancy while others do not. Usually, various hormones keep blood sugar levels in a normal range. But pregnancy causes hormone levels to change, affecting how your body processes blood sugar. This leads to elevated blood sugar levels during pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes risk factors
Not all women develop diabetes during pregnancy. Some have a greater risk of experiencing it. Risk factors for pregnancy diabetes include the following:
- previous gestational diabetes or prediabetes;
- family history of diabetes;
- overweight and obesity;
- lack of physical activity;
- polycystic ovary syndrome;
- previously delivering a baby with a weight of more than 9 pounds;
- Black, Hispanic, Asian American, American Indian women are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes.
Prevention and treatment
There is no guarantee that you can prevent gestational diabetes but making healthy choices can reduce the risks of developing it. And if you have gestational diabetes, a healthy lifestyle is a good way to manage it in order to avoid complications.
Healthy diet. Choose food high in fiber and low in fat and calories. Include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein while limiting highly refined carbohydrates, including sweets. You can always consult with a registered dietitian to get some help with creating a meal plan suitable for you.
Staying active. Regular physical activity plays a crucial role in every woman’s wellness plan before, during, and after pregnancy. Exercises lower blood sugar and help relieve some discomforts of pregnancy, such as back pain, muscle cramps, constipation, and trouble sleeping. Activities like walking and swimming are good choices during pregnancy.
Healthy weight. When planning a pregnancy, it is good to lose extra weight beforehand. But it is not recommended to do so during pregnancy because your organism is working hard to support the healthy development of the baby. Gaining some weight during pregnancy is normal and healthy. However, gaining too much weight in a short period can increase your risk of gestational diabetes.
Monitoring blood sugar. During pregnancy, it might be recommended to keep track of your blood sugar levels to make sure it stays within a healthy range.
Medications. If you develop gestational diabetes, a healthy lifestyle alone might not be sufficient enough. Therefore, you may need insulin injections to manage your blood sugar. You might also be prescribed an oral medication for controlling blood sugar levels. However, some doctors believe that more research is needed to confirm that such drugs are as safe and effective as injectable insulin.
Close monitoring of the baby. An essential part of the treatment plan for diabetes during pregnancy is close observation of the baby. It can be done by monitoring the baby’s growth and development using repeated ultrasounds or other tests.
Follow-up after delivery
Your blood sugar level will be checked after delivery and again in 6-12 weeks to ensure that it has returned to normal. If the results are as expected, you still will need to have your diabetes risk assessed at least once in three years. If tests indicate type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, your doctor will help you develop a diabetes management plan.