Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that disappears when the baby is delivered. During pregnancy, certain hormones that help the baby grow can cause insulin resistance. Without enough insulin, sugar can't get from the mother's bloodstream into her, or her baby's, cells. The sugar builds up in both the mom's and baby's bloodstream.
Should You Be Worried about Gestational Diabetes?
Some women are more likely to get gestational diabetes than others. Every pregnant woman is tested for gestational diabetes, but how early and often you're tested depends on whether your risk is high, average or low.
High risk - you fit into this category if you are:
- Obese, with a BMI of 30 or more
- Had gestational diabetes with another pregnancy
- Have family members with diabetes
Low risk - you fit this category if you are:
- Younger than age 25
- Have no family members with diabetes
- Have a pre-pregnancy BMI within a healthy weight range of 19 to 25
- Never gave birth to a child with a birth defect
- Never had a miscarriage or a stillbirth
- Never had a baby weighing 9 pounds or more
- Not African American, Hispanic American, Native American, Asian American, or Pacific Islander.
- All other women who do not fit into the high and low risk categories have average or medium risk.
Get in Control
Most women who develop gestational diabetes can control their blood sugars by changing their eating habits and getting more physical activity. Women with gestational diabetes should meet with a registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator to get a customized plan for meals and exercise and learn how to test blood sugar. Some women may need insulin injections if diet and exercise do not bring blood sugar under control.
What Could Happen if You Don't Get in Control?
Your health, and the health of your unborn baby, are in danger when your blood sugar is chronically high. Your baby can gain too much weight, which could cause you to go into labor weeks before your due date. Delivering a large baby can lengthen the labor and make it more difficult, possibly requiring a Cesarean section. Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are more likely to become overweight and develop diabetes as adults.
An Ounce of Prevention...
Talk with your healthcare provider about how much weight you should gain during pregnancy by the week, the month, and the trimester. Eat a balanced meal plan and stay physically active throughout your pregnancy to give your body an easier time to use the sugar in your bloodstream. ThereÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½s a good chance that you can prevent gestational diabetes by taking better care of yourself.
Women who have had gestational diabetes have as much as a 50% chance of developing diabetes 5 to 10 years later. To lessen your chances, prevent weight gain. Prevent weight gain by breastfeeding. Breastfeeding uses up the fat that your body stored while you were pregnant. Slowly lose the weight you gained during pregnancy by eating a balanced diet and making regular exercise a part of your life
- American Diabetes Association. Gestational Diabetes Mellitus. Diabetes Care 26. Suppl (2003): S103-S105.
- American Diabetes Association. Nutrition Recommendations and Interventions for Diabetes. A position statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care 30.Supp. (2007):S48-S65.
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Other Helpful Links
- American Diabetes Association