Gestational Diabetes

by Brian M. Williams

beautiful pregnant bellyAny pregnancy, even the smoothest one, can take an unexpected turn. We'll empower you with the information you'll need just in case you're diagnosed with GD.

You can take control of the situation. These steps can lower your risk and help you respond effectively if a situation does crop up during your pregnancy.

1. Get your body ready before pregnancy.
2. Know your risk factors.
3. Make lifestyle changes now that lower those risk.
4. Ask for an early glucose tolerance test if you're at high risk.

Get Ready for a Healthy Pregnancy

Commit to a healthy food plan. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, healthy fats and lean proteins. Eat less refined and pre-packaged products.

Strive for a normal weight. If you're underweight you might need to eat a bit more. If you're overweight, losing a few pounds might lower your risk of GD.

Exercise. Start on a fun fitness program before pregnancy. With your provider's approval keep it up during pregnancy.

Make a pregnancy plan. Talk with your midwife or doctor before you get pregnant. Together you can discuss your risk factors and have your sugar level tested early. Have your blood sugar tested early to see if it is in a normal range.

Gestational Diabetes Risk Factors

Pregnant women who have never had diabetes before but who have high blood sugar levels during pregnancy have gestational diabetes.

Two percent to five percent of pregnant women develop GD. With the recently announced criteria, gestational diabetes could affect 18 percent of pregnancies.

You're at an increased risk for gestational diabetes if:

  • You're over 35 years old
  • You have a family history of diabetes
  • You're overweight
  • A baby's birth weight was over nine pounds
  • You've experience an adverse pregnancy outcome
  • You have recurrent infections

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of diabetes include unusual thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, nausea, frequent bladder, vaginal or skin infections and blurred vision.

Most clinics offer screening for gestational diabetes between the 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. If you're at high risk, your doctor might suggest a test by 20 weeks or earlier.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists states that a you might not need to screen for GD if you meet certain criteria.

If gestational diabetes isn't treated, your baby might have problems at birth such as a low blood sugar level, jaundice, or your baby may weigh much more than normal.

Because of baby's larger size, you might have a more difficult delivery. Gestational diabetes also increases your risk of developing preeclampsia.

If You Have GD

Expectant moms can help control gestational diabetes by eating healthy foods, exercising and, if necessary, using medication.

Your good self-care can ensure a healthy pregnancy for you and a healthy start for your baby.

Nutrition: You'll get to work with a nutritionist to create an eating plan customized to your baby's stage of growth, your weight, and the foods you like.

Exercise: Exercise prompts your to use insulin more efficiently. Your nutritionist or provider might suggest a specific routine or something as simple as a 10-30 minute walk within an hour of starting a meal.

Weight gain: Your provider will watch your weight gain. Between your new eating plan and added exercise, you might be pleasantly surprised to find your baby growing well without your packing on excess weight.

Monitor your sugar levels: If your results are often out of range, you might need insulin, in addition to a meal plan and physical activity, to reach your blood glucose targets.

After Your Baby's Born

Gestational diabetes usually goes away once you have the baby. Just to be sure, your doctor will run a glucose tolerance test six to 12 weeks after delivery.

Type II diabetes: While your gestational diabetes ends with the birth of your baby, the risk that you might get diabetes in the future doesn't. Having gestational diabetes raises your risk for getting it again in future pregnancies, and for getting type II diabetes later on.

Heart disease: Researchers found that women who developed gestational diabetes were much more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease by age 50.

If you continue to exercise, watch your weight and eat a healthy diet after pregnancy, you can avoid these health problems when you're older.

Have you or are you dealing with gestational diabetes? Share your story!

SOURCE: American Heart Association (2012, February 18). A. Fraser, S. M. Nelson, C. Macdonald-Wallis, L. Cherry, E. Butler, N. Sattar, D. A. Lawlor. "Pregnancy-related complications predict CVD in middle age."

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