Gestational diabetes is diabetes that develops during pregnancy. While gestational diabetes does not mean that a woman is stuck with diabetes for life, it does pose quite a few risks to both her and her baby. Fetal risks include everything from large fetal size to birth defects and even miscarriage in the earlier stages of pregnancy. In other words, gestational diabetes is best avoided. What can you do to prevent developing diabetes during your pregnancy?
Gestational Diabetes — what causes that?
A pregnant womans blood glucose levels are usually higher than normal. This is, of course, a change for which the usual suspects also known as pregnancy hormones are responsible. The pancreas usually reacts to the changes that happen during pregnancy by creating more insulin. When this does not happen, blood sugar levels will keep on increasing and the expectant mom will develop gestational diabetes.
While traditional glucose tests are not the most effective at detecting gestational diabetes, screening for this condition is of great importance. Measuring blood sugar levels over a period of days while eating normally is probably the most effective way to get the whole picture. You can talk to your prenatal care provider about this.
Gestational diabetes can result in a miscarriage during the early stages of pregnancy, can lead to birth defects involving major organs, and can make a fetus grow unusually large because of fetal over-nutrition. The latter is the most common and also most well-known side effect of diabetes during pregnancy, and this may cause the need for a cesarean section.
Gestational diabetes risk factors
Beware — not having any risk factors does not mean it is impossible to develop gestational diabetes by any means. You may still want to know about the things that put you at an increased risk of developing pregnancy diabetes. Here they are:
- Being overweight or obese at the time of conception and thus during pregnancy
- A family history of diabetes, or having had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy
- Glucose tolerance issues, or protein showing up on your urine test
- Too much amniotic fluid
- Having given birth to a stillborn baby before, depending on the cause of the stillbirth
Women who have gestational diabetes (regardless of risk factors) may or may not notice symptoms indicating something could be wrong. Symptoms of pregnancy diabetes can include being thirsty all the time, urinating more often, being really hungry and having blurred vision. More frequent urination and increased hunger are both normal pregnancy signs as well, but extreme thirst and blurred vision are real warning signs. Make an urgent prenatal appointment if you notice either of these.
Preventing diabetes in pregnancy
There isnt a certain checklist you can follow in order to avoid gestational diabetes, but there are some steps you can undertake in order to reduce your risk. Prevention begins before you start trying to conceive, if you are overweight. As you saw in the previous section, being overweight or obese is one risk factor for gestational diabetes that you may be able to do something about. Going into a pregnancy at a healthy weight also helps prevent many other pregnancy complications.
As expected, healthy eating plays a huge role. Natural sugars are fine, and you should not stop eating fruit to prevent diabetes. Eat plenty of fresh veggies as well, whole grains, and foods containing lots of fiber. Eating smaller meals more frequently keeps your blood sugar levels steady, and can also therefore reduce morning sickness.
Cutting trans fats out of your diet as much as you can is great for your health, whether you are actively trying to prevent diabetes or not. Refined sugars are another evil, but you do need healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates. Women who have particular risk factors for gestational diabetes should consider seeing a nutritionist to develop a dietary plan. The same goes for those mothers to-be who have already been diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
Exercise is another integral part of a healthy lifestyle (during pregnancy and when not pregnant). Working out for 30 to 90 minutes three to four times a week offers a great variety of benefits, and reducing your odds of ending up with gestational diabetes is definitely one of them. If you are not very fit going into your pregnancy, you should talk to your doctor about the best forms of exercise for you. Generally, walking and swimming are the safest options for pregnant women who are beginning a new exercise program.