What You Need To Know About Gestational Diabetes

Registered Dietician

| 4 min read

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of the US population has diabetes or its precursor, pre-diabetes. There are three types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and gestational. Of these, gestational diabetes (GDM) is unique because it only affects pregnant women.
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, it’s important to understand the symptoms, risk factors and routes of treatment available for gestational diabetes.

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

Although specific symptoms have been linked to gestational diabetes, many women do not experience any or notice them because they are experiencing a lot of changes due to being pregnant. Because of this, it’s important to schedule doctor visits and regularly receive testing during the time of the pregnancy that may be able to detect abnormalities.
• Blurred vision
• Fatigue
• Frequent urination
• Frequent thirst
• Nausea
• Skin infection
• Sugar in urine (tested during doctor’s visits)

Causes of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women when the body is not producing enough insulin or they are unable to store excess blood sugar efficiently for later use. It’s typically diagnosed around week 24 of pregnancy and is subject to all women regardless of their diabetic history. Although it is common for gestational diabetes to resolve itself after birth, almost half of women diagnosed with GDM have either impaired fasting glucose, impaired glucose tolerance or get diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
Women who have gestational diabetes during their first pregnancy are 66 percent more likely to have it in the future. However, it is important to note that gestational diabetes can resolve itself post-birth. By maintaining a healthy diet and child-bearing appropriate workout regime, the risk of gestational diabetes during pregnancy can be lowered as well. In any case, it’s important to consult a physician to ensure you are maintaining the most appropriate regime for you.

Treatment of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is manageable through various lifestyle choices. If the pregnant mother is not able to control it with lifestyle changes, they must then take insulin. Other than visiting your primary care provider, the following steps can be taken to manage GDM:
  • Find a Support System: Finding motivation to develop healthier habits alone can be challenging. Recruit a team of health care experts, family members and friends to set lifestyle goals together and keep each other accountable. Obstetricians (OB/GYN) will enroll those diagnosed with GDM into a diabetes education class.
  • Eat Healthy, Watch Portions: A balanced, nutritious and portion-controlled diet helps maintain glucose levels.. Incorporating healthy fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and heart healthy fats into a diet is essential for managing GDM. Note that yo-yo dieting impacts the body’s ability to sustain healthy blood sugar levels and the goal should never be to eliminate a food group from a meal plan. Steady and appropriate weight gain during pregnancy fueled with healthy food choice and regular eating patterns will help any mom-to-be with GDM.
  • Get Moving: Exercise helps lower blood sugar levels and boosts the body’s ability to use insulin properly. Adults should aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, five days a week, which should include both cardiovascular exercise and resistance training. Make sure all exercise is appropriate and safe during pregnancy and is doctor approved.
  • Get Rest: Americans today get 40 percent less sleep than the body needs to function at its best. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to higher blood sugars and hormone imbalance. Insulin is a hormone. The job of insulin is to help the body use glucose (sugar) for energy. When the body is showing signs of insulin resistance, that means the body’s cells cannot use insulin efficiently, it can result in higher blood sugar levels. Adults should aim for seven to nine hours of shut-eye per night. This is especially important during pregnancy.
  • Stress Less: According to the American Diabetes Association, long-term stress can cause long-term high blood glucose levels. Managing stress is different for every individual; exercising, meditation and deep-breathing exercises are a few ideas to explore. With so many changes happening with your body and in your life, take some time for yourself to de-stress.
  • See the Doctor: When you are pregnant, be sure to attend your OB/GYN visits regularly. It is important for your health and the baby’s well-being and growth. Follow your doctor’s orders. As a mom with GDM, be sure to check your blood sugars regularly as prescribed and submit them to the doctor’s office as instructed. This open line of communication will help the health care team assess how you and the baby are doing and if anything has to be altered with your medications and diet plan.
Photo Credit: summerbl4ck
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