Pregnancy should be the healthiest time of a woman’s life, and it is a time when preventive medicine is more important than ever. When pregnant women develop gestational diabetes they really need to control their blood sugar levels.
Gestational diabetes occurs because during pregnancy the placenta produces hormones that block the function of insulin, in other words… insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is characteristic of type 2 diabetes…your pancreas is producing insulin but the body is unable to use it.
There is more than one risk factor for gestational diabetes:
- a history of diabetes in your parent or sibling indicates the possibility of genetic predisposition
- obesity is another risk factor
- prediabetes, or slightly elevated sugar levels before your pregnancy, can indicate an impaired ability for your body to utilize sugar
- it affects women over 25 more than younger mothers
- a history of having delivered a newborn over 9 pounds (4082 g) previously, might indicate an undiagnosed condition
- if the mother’s own birth-weight was more than 9 pounds (4082 g)
Gestational diabetes can have complications for the mother if left untreated. It often leads to:
- cesarean section
- risk for high blood pressure
- urinary tract infections and
- too much fluid in the uterus
True gestational diabetes is confirmed about six months into the pregnancy through an oral glucose tolerance test. If you are considered to be at risk, a glucose tolerance test can be carried out immediately you find you are pregnant.
Ideal blood sugar levels during pregnancy are as follows:
- 2 hrs following your meal…
The first line of treatment is:
- an eating plan that involves eating six small meals and a snack at bedtime
- eating protein and fat at each meal to help even out your blood sugar response
- moderate exercise
- medication may be prescribed
A balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, nonfat milk, and cottage cheese is important during pregnancy more than ever. Many health care providers will prescribe a multivitamin supplement with iron just to be on the safe side.
Walking and swimming are good cardiovascular exercises but some women with gestational diabetes have limits imposed on their activities. Limitations may include doing the same exercise, the same intensity and duration, at the same time each day. If your blood sugar levels are too high, insulin may be required although some health care providers prescribe sulfonylurea drugs to help reduce blood sugar levels.
A simple test the pregnant mother can do is to check her urine for ketones… if more than a trace amount is found two days in a row, your health care provider needs to be contacted as this indicates your body is taking energy from fat stores instead of using incoming food.
If you have gestational diabetes, even if it disappears after your pregnancy, means you are at increased risk for developing it with your next pregnancy. It also means there is a strong possibility of you developing type 2 diabetes at a later date.