An expectant mother who receives a diagnosis of diabetes while pregnant is considered to have Gestational diabetes. This condition occurs in about seven percent of pregnancies and is usually detected in the second half of the pregnancy. Many women find that this condition resolves itself following delivery; however, if not managed throughout the pregnancy, complications can arise.
Pregnancy hormones cause the body to be resistant to the action of insulin, a hormone made by your pancreas that helps your body use the fuels supplied by food.
When you consume carbohydrates, the body becomes fueled with glucose, which is sugar in the blood that provides nourishment to the heart, tissue, and muscle. Aside from providing fuel to your body, glucose also is essential in ensuring the successful development of the baby. In gestational diabetes, the insulin does not effectively push glucose to the areas that need it most, causing blood sugar levels to rise.
During pregnancy, your Atlanta orthopedic doctor will screen for this condition by having you drink a sweet beverage and then measuring your glucose level. Some may need only one test to determine if sugar levels are high, whereas others may need a followup to confirm the diagnosis.
This condition is most commonly caught in the later months of pregnancy when the placenta is producing more hormones causing the mother’s insulin to change. Expectant healthy mothers are typically screened between 24-28 weeks, but for those who pose a higher risk, testing may be performed within the first trimester.
There are several risk factors associated with gestational diabetes, including:
- Being overweight
- Giving birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds
- Having a parent or sibling with diabetes
- Having had gestational diabetes in the past
- Having glucose in your urine
Gestational diabetes occurs more often in African Americans, Native Americans, Latinas, and women with a family history of diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes and Your Baby
Gestational diabetes can impact your developing baby in a couple of ways:
Higher Than Average Birth Weight: Those babies subjected to higher levels of sugar from the mother’s blood pose a larger risk of higher birth weight. The baby stores extra fat due to the baby’s pancreas to produce extra insulin. When a baby is larger than average, there are more risks to the mother as well as the baby.
Low Blood Sugar: Hypoglycemia in your baby is possible if blood sugar levels elevated during pregnancy and can surface shortly after delivery. With extra insulin pumping through the baby, the baby’s blood sugar can plummet shortly after its birth due to no longer being supplied with the mother’s maternal blood regulating blood sugar.
However, this is temporary, and the nurses and doctors caring for your newborn will monitor your baby carefully and treat any episodes of low blood sugar that may occur.
To minimize the risk of complications, it is best to keep blood sugar levels down and controlled throughout pregnancy. Those who manage to control their sugar are at a lower risk for complications and can deliver a healthy baby.
Our facility specializes in providing orthopedic treatment for women and can help provide proactive solutions that reduce the risk of developing Gestational diabetes.
Diet: What you choose to fuel your body with can adversely affect your gestational diabetes, so it is suggested that you meet with a dietitian to develop a customized plan to ensure you and baby are fueling your body with the best possible nutrients.
Although pregnancy cravings may make controlling gestational diabetes difficult, it is best to avoid high in sugary foods such as candy, sweets, and cookies, as well as soda and fruit juice. The fruit is a healthy option; however, keep in mind that fruit contains natural sugar, so be sure to monitor your intake.
Eat reasonable portions of high-carbohydrate foods. Carbohydrates are found in bread, cereals, rice, pasta, potatoes, beans, fruits, milk, yogurt, and some vegetables. Carbohydrate foods break down into glucose during digestion. They are important because they contain nutrients that are necessary for both you and your developing baby. Therefore, it is important to eat carbohydrate foods at each meal but avoid overeating.
Eating smaller meals and spreading out your carbohydrate intake throughout the day is recommended. Minimizing your carbohydrate intake means that you must eat more of other foods to ensure the baby is gaining enough nutrients. It is suggested that you eat three regular-sized meals a day as well as adding in three to four snacks throughout your day.
Monitoring Blood Sugar
Although eating healthy can help to control spikes in blood sugar, the only way to be sure what your sugar levels are is to test your sugar frequently. When diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you will be provided with a home blood sugar monitor. Testing your sugar should be done four times a day or as directed by your doctor. It’s best to check your sugar early in the morning and then one hour before eating a meal.
The majority of women with gestational diabetes will be able to control their blood sugar simply by modifying their diet. You will need to follow the diet guidelines until your baby is born. After delivery, most women can resume their normal eating habits. Gestational diabetes does not interfere with your ability to breastfeed your baby.
Changing your diet and checking blood sugar levels may not be the only thing needed to manage your diabetes while pregnant. 30% of women with gestational diabetes need to add insulin to help manage their sugar levels. Insulin is safe during pregnancy and will not cause adverse effects on the baby.
With many pregnancies, following delivery, gestational diabetes will resolve itself and go away. If blood sugars remain high following delivery, diabetes may have been present before becoming pregnant.
The most important thing to remember is to check your blood sugar before you become pregnant again. Women who had gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Women who had diabetes before they become pregnant have an increased risk of pregnancy complications. Elevated maternal blood sugar during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when the major organ systems are developing, increases risks to the fetus. Women with diabetes can help improve their chances of having a healthy baby by normalizing their blood sugar before becoming pregnant.
Our Atlanta orthopedic specialists can provide relief for expectant mothers as well as guidance on managing gestational diabetes. If you are affected by this condition and need information, contact our office at (404) 855-2141 to learn more about how we can help you through your pregnancy.