Diabetes can be a complicated disease, mostly because there is not one specific reason as to when or why it might occur. Then, there is gestational diabetes, the type that develops during pregnancy. According to a report published in 2014 by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of gestational diabetes is as high as 9.2 percent. Diabetes in pregnancy causes major complications both for the mother and the fetus, and half of the women might not even have risk factors for it, making it difficult to identify. Regular blood sugar test and gestational diabetes diet needs to be followed in order to minimise the complexities.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
It occurs when the pregnancy hormones interfere with the body’s ability to use the insulin, the hormone that converts blood sugar into energy, which results in high blood sugar levels. The hormones from the placenta of the mother help in the growth of the baby. But the same hormones also end up blocking the normal functioning of the insulin present in the mother’s body. This condition is termed as insulin resistance, which makes it harder for the body to use insulin properly.
How to know if you have gestational diabetes?
Between your 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy, your doctor will most probably screen you for gestational diabetes. If certain risk factors show up, he might decide to screen you sooner. During the screening process, you are required to drink a sugary liquid, and then taken up for a blood sugar test. If high blood sugar levels show up, then a longer test is required, during which you intake more liquid and your blood is tested several times to determine whether or not you have gestational diabetes.
Some common risk factors for gestational diabetes include the following:
- Having high blood pressure or any other related medical complications.
- Given birth to a stillborn baby, or a baby suffering from particular birth defects before.
- Had gestational diabetes during previous pregnancies.
- Age is more than 30 years.
- Hail from a certain ethnic background, including African, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, or Pacific Islander.
- Have given birth to a large (greater than 9 pounds) baby before.
- Suffer from obesity, during pregnancy.
- Having a family history of diabetes.
Treating gestational diabetes
It is mandatory to treat gestational diabetes, if left untreated; it could damage the foetus and result in a baby that has major body complications. The treatment for this disease is initiated through lifestyle changes.
This treatment includes:
- Exercising regularly:
- A moderate exercise routine comprising of at least 3 hours of low impact work out per week needs to be followed. Being active is the main goal here, even if it is just for 30 minutes a day. This helps your body utilize the insulin better, ultimately controlling your blood sugar levels. It is important to consult a doctor before designing an exercise routine.
- Eating right:
Once you have been diagnosed, your dietician considers your weight, pregnancy stage, food preferences; and designs an individual gestational diabetes diet for you. Calorie distribution should include 10 to 20 percent of calories from proteins, 30 percent from healthy fats, and the remaining from complex carbohydrates such as whole-grain bread or cereals.
- Keeping track of blood sugar levels
This is an essential part of treating gestational diabetes, wherein you take a blood sugar test regularly, most feasible at home. This helps you to keep your blood sugar in check, and keeps you away from stress. You can consult your doctor, to know how often you should test your blood sugar.
- Monitoring foetal development:
- Your doctor may suggest you to monitor the foetal movements (kick counts) in order to know if your baby is moving less than usual. Foetal ultrasounds are also performed, which help in monitoring your child’s growth.
- Regular medical checkups:
- Medical checkups include the doctor checking your blood pressure, along with testing a sample of your urine. The doctor takes into account all your diet habits, exercises, and what is the weight gained during each check up.
- Taking prescribed medicines and insulin shots:
- In some severe cases, when the blood sugar levels don’t drop even after two weeks of diet, the doctor advices you to take insulin shots or diabetes medicines for rest of the pregnancy duration.
Most of the times, the blood sugar levels of the women with diabetes, return to normal after a day or two of delivery. But, having diabetes in pregnancy once; risks you of having it in future during the next pregnancy or might even pose as a major risk for type2 diabetes, which is a permanent type of diabetes. Hence, it is recommended to follow the lifestyle changes made during the time of pregnancy to avoid further complexities later in life.