Gestational Diabetes: What It Is and What It’s Not.
Being pregnant takes a lot of adjustments. Aside from your growing belly and the inconveniences thereof, you’ll also have to deal with several health risks and monitor them closely through medical tests and procedures to ensure your baby’s safety. One common health issue pregnant women face is gestational diabetes. Its prevalence is marked at 9.2% by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Despite being common, not all people know what the condition really is. If you are pregnant and just recently been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know.
Why It Happens
During pregnancy, your placenta and its hormones function to support your growing baby. As they provide nourishment to your child, the same hormones block the action of your own insulin, triggering insulin resistance over time. Insulin is another type of hormone that signals your liver, muscles and fat cells to take in your blood glucose. However, since there’s resistance, the glucose remains and accumulates in your blood, which in turn leads to gestational diabetes.
How Can It Harm Your Baby
There are actually a lot of ways. For one, when your high blood sugar levels are high, your body, particularly your pancreas, is forced to produce more insulin in an attempt to regain balance. Despite the increased insulin production, your blood sugar level remains relatively high since its reuptake is restricted.
As a result, your excess blood sugar crosses the placenta and enters your baby’s blood circulation. In turn, your baby’s pancreas produces more insulin to take out the excess glucose from his blood. But because your baby doesn’t have enough physical activity to use the glucose, it gets stored and macrosomia happens.
Macrosomia refers to babies born larger than the average. It can cause a handful of health concerns to the baby, such as breaking his shoulders during delivery and very low blood sugar levels at birth. There’s also the risk of breathing difficulties.
How to Diagnose Gestational Diabetes
Glucose screening test in pregnant women should be started between their 24th to 28th weeks of pregnancy. It can be done earlier than the said time frame if you have high sugar levels in your urine during your initial assessment or if you have a history or an existing case of diabetes.
In case you’re found to have high blood glucose, you’ll be subjected to another type of test called the glucose tolerance test. Side effects or any serious reactions, during this test are very minimal. The most discomfort you can experience can include nausea, light-headedness and increased sweating after drinking the glucose solution.
Adjustments and Lifestyle Changes
If your blood glucose level gets controlled efficiently throughout your pregnancy, there’s a high chance you can give birth to a healthy baby. Here are a few things you can do to get the condition under control.
- Check your blood glucose level daily. You can buy your own blood sugar testing kit or you can have it examined by professionals. Testing for Random Blood Sugar is a relatively inexpensive and easy procedure. It shouldn’t cost too much or take too much of your time.
- Consult a dietitian. Because you’re pregnant, it’s ill-advised for you to personally decide on which food you should and shouldn’t cut away from your diet. Missing out on a few vitamins and nutrients can adversely affect the health of your growing baby. Instead of drafting your own meal plan, you should consider consulting a dietitian. He is the best person who can guide you on how to lower your blood glucose level without compromising your baby’s nutritional needs.
- Monitor your weight gain. It’s relatively normal for a pregnant woman to gain a few pounds during her pregnancy. However, if you have diabetes, you should be very keen on knowing how much you’re gaining per week.
- Take note of the food you eat. Writing down every food item you consumed during the day can give your physician a good idea if your existing treatment plan is working or not. It can also help him know if you’re sticking with your recommended diet plan.
- Do minimal to moderate physical activity. Increasing your physical activity helps your body use the excess glucose in your blood. However, before you participate in any type of exercise program, make sure to consult your physician first as not all exercise routines are fit for pregnant women.
Gestational diabetes happens during the entire course of a woman’s pregnancy. After giving birth, you can expect your blood glucose level to return to its pre-pregnancy state. You can consult your doctor to get it checked around 6 weeks after the delivery of the baby. In case you’re planning to get pregnant again in a few years, it’s a good idea to take a blood sugar test, preferably a glycosylated hemoglobin test, at least 3 months before starting the process.