Gestational diabetes (sometimes called gestational diabetes mellitus) is a glucose intolerance that manifests only during pregnancy. It affects 1 out of 250 people.
Gestational diabetes is a potentially serious condition that affects both you and your baby. It’s important to diagnose it early and then to manage it with proper diet and medical supervision. Here are some things you may want to know about gestational diabetes.
Difference between diabetes mellitus and gestational diabetes
Normally, our digestive system breaks our food down into glucose. The glucose is conducted into the cells and converted into energy, through a hormone called insulin. Diabetics can’t process the glucose because of an ‘insulin defect.’ So the sugar stays in the blood.
Women who develop gestational diabetes don’t have an insulin defect. Instead, the pregnancy hormones make it harder for the body to use insulin. Usually, gestational diabetes disappears after birth and the hormone levels normalize. However, there are cases of women developing diabetes mellitus. Also, the risk for developing gestational diabetes in the next pregnancy is very high.
Effect of Gestational Diabetes
Gestational Diabetes can cause pregnancy and labor complications. These include hypertension, increased risk for caesarian section, and increased risk for developing diabetes mellitus after giving birth.
Gestational Diabetes has been associated with increased risk for jaundice and neonatal hypoglycemia. It can also affect your child for the rest of his life: studies show that babies whose mothers developed gestational diabetes were more prone to developing glucose intolerance and diabetes in late adolescence and young adulthood.
If you are obese, developing gestational diabetes can also increase your chances for miscarriage, early labor, and stillbirth.
Risk for Gestational Diabetes
From the first pre-natal visits your doctor will check your risks for gestational diabetes, which include marked obesity or high BMI before pregnancy, smoking, race (native Americans, Southeast Asians, Hispanics and those of African descent), personal history of diabetes, strong family of diabetes, sudden increase in weight between pregnancies, short interval between pregnancies, previous pregnancy with GDM, previous unexplained stillbirths, previous pregnancy with congenital anomalies, previous history of recurrent miscarriages, previous history of big baby, and glucosuria (presence of sugar in the urine).
Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes
Watch out for these signs: large abdomen because of a big baby or excessive amniotic fluid, presence of infections such as yeast infection of the vagina. Other signs include drinking lots of water, passing large volumes of urine, eating a lot, weight loss, body weakness and blurred vision.
Treatment of Gestational Diabetes
Depending on your medical history, your doctor can prescribe moderate physical exercise, which will control your blood sugar. You can also monitor your glucose level, blood pressure and weight at home. Your doctor may also prescribe regular ultrasounds and non-stress tests to check on your baby’s well being. Your doctor will assess your case to see if you require insulin therapy.
Dietary changes to manage Gestational Diabetes
Women with gestational diabetes are advised to avoid ‘white, processed’ carbohydrates and switch to ‘brown, complex’ carbohydrates. Also avoid high fat, very sweet food. For example, take brown rice instead of white rice, wholewheat bread instead of a croissant. (This can be very hard to follow, especially at parties and celebration. Find tips on how to manage gestational diabetes during the holidays.)
Even fruits must be chosen carefully. High sugar fruits include mangoes, cherries, applies, pineapple, prunes, and anything that’s been dried. Low sugar fruits include watermelons, tomatoes, grapefruit, oranges, and kiwis.
There are many hidden sugars in ‘non-sweet’ food items. Read the label. Watch out for ingredients that end in ‘use’ such as glucose and sucrose.
It’s also important to eat high fiber food since fiber has been known to help control sugar level.
Photo from fornewmoms.com