Understanding Gestational Diabetes all in a article

Understanding Gestational Diabetes all in a article

In this guide I’m going to cover:

Whether you're currently pregnant or planning to conceive soon, prioritizing your health is crucial. One major reason for this is to minimize the risk of gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes develops when hormones from the placenta disrupt the proper functioning of insulin, resulting in elevated blood sugar levels during pregnancy, according to Joy Cornthwaite, RD, a certified diabetes care and educational specialist with UTHealth Houston.

It impacts individuals who did not have diabetes before pregnancy.

While relatively uncommon, the incidence of gestational diabetes has been on the rise in recent years, estimated to affect 2% to 10% of pregnancies annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fortunately, through proactive planning and adjustments, it's possible to reduce the likelihood of gestational diabetes and promote a healthy pregnancy.

Continue reading for a comprehensive guide on gestational diabetes, covering causes, treatments, symptoms, and preventive measures.

Understanding Gestational Diabetes:

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a pregnancy condition that arises when your body fails to utilize insulin properly, leading to elevated blood sugar levels.

If left untreated, it can result in complications such as preterm delivery, C-section, birth injuries, preeclampsia, and a high birthweight baby. Treatment typically involves adjustments to diet and exercise.

Causes of Gestational Diabetes:

Gestational Diabetes:

The exact cause of gestational diabetes remains unknown. However, several risk factors can increase the likelihood of a diagnosis, including:

- Being overweight or obese when becoming pregnant

- Lack of physical activity

- History of gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy

- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

- Diagnosis of prediabetes

- Family history of diabetes

- Age over 25 years

- Previous delivery of a baby weighing more than 9 pounds

- Being of Black, Latinx, South and East Asian, Native American, or Pacific Islander descent

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes:

Gestational Diabetes:

Not everyone experiencing gestational diabetes will exhibit symptoms. However, if you notice any of the following symptoms, it's essential to consult with your doctor:

- More frequent urination

- Increased thirst

- Fatigue

- Nausea

- Blurry vision

Prompt management of gestational diabetes is crucial. With proper precautions, it's possible to have a healthy pregnancy and baby, even with gestational diabetes.

Potential Complications of Gestational Diabetes:

Potential Complications of Gestational Diabetes

Untreated gestational diabetes can pose potential complications for both the pregnant individual and the baby.

However, Cornthwaite emphasizes that these risks can be reduced with appropriate education, support, and monitoring of glucose levels after a gestational diabetes diagnosis. Possible complications include:

- Increased likelihood of C-section delivery

- Preterm birth

- Higher risk of birth injuries

- Maternal high blood pressure and preeclampsia

- Breathing problems for the baby after birth

- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) in the baby after delivery, leading to seizures in severe cases

- High birthweight baby (9 pounds or more), complicating delivery

- Stillbirth

- Greater risk of anxiety or depression during pregnancy

Blood sugar levels should return to normal shortly after delivering the baby. However, about half of individuals with gestational diabetes may develop type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC.

It recommends testing blood sugar 6 to 12 weeks after childbirth and subsequent tests every 1 to 3 years.

Additionally, the baby faces an increased chance of being overweight or developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Testing for Gestational Diabetes:

The ideal timeframe for the gestational diabetes screening test is between 24 and 28 weeks. This is when pregnancy hormones have risen to levels that can impact and cause maternal hyperglycemia, notes Cornthwaite.

The test involves drinking a glucose-containing liquid, followed by a blood draw an hour later to measure glucose levels.

If the results indicate abnormally high glucose levels (a positive result), you'll undergo a three-hour glucose tolerance test to confirm or reject a gestational diabetes diagnosis.

Treatment and Management of Gestational Diabetes:

If diagnosed with gestational diabetes, treatment options can help maintain blood sugar levels. In most cases, self-care, exercise, and improved nutrition are sufficient. Cornthwaite suggests lifestyle modifications:

Balanced nutrition: Meal planning is crucial for managing glucose during pregnancy. Aim for a balance of high-fiber foods, lean protein, and small, frequent meals.

Seeking a diabetes educator referral for personalized care and support is beneficial.

Regular physical activity: Consult your healthcare provider for a tailored exercise plan during pregnancy. Regular movement is vital for managing gestational diabetes.

Walking for 15-20 minutes after meals can help lower glucose without interference from pregnancy hormones.

- Monitored blood sugar: Your doctor will provide guidance on this. If healthy eating and physical activity are insufficient, your doctor may prescribe insulin or other medication.

Prevention of Gestational Diabetes:

Prevention of Gestational Diabetes

While it may not be possible to prevent gestational diabetes in all cases, there are modifiable risks like weight, self-care, and physical activity that can be addressed before pregnancy, reducing the chances of developing gestational diabetes.

Cornthwaite advises discussing weight management goals with your primary care physician or OB before pregnancy, as even a 10% reduction in body weight can positively impact pregnancy outcomes.


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