What is Gestational Diabetes and Why does it Matter?

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Gestational diabetes is a condition that affects some pregnant women, causing their blood sugar levels to become too high. It is a common condition, affecting approximately 2-10% of pregnancies. While gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, it is important to manage it during pregnancy to ensure the health of both mother and baby.

What causes gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes occurs when the body is unable to produce enough insulin, which is the hormone that helps to regulate blood sugar levels. During pregnancy, the body’s demand for insulin increases as the placenta produces hormones that can interfere with the body’s ability to use insulin effectively. This can lead to high blood sugar levels and the development of gestational diabetes.

What are the risk factors for gestational diabetes?

There are several risk factors for gestational diabetes, including:

  • Being overweight or obese before pregnancy
  • Having a family history of diabetes
  • Having had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • Being over the age of 25
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?

Gestational diabetes is typically diagnosed between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. A glucose screening test is performed, which involves drinking a sugary drink and then having blood drawn to measure the body’s response to the sugar. If the results of this test are abnormal, a follow-up glucose tolerance test may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.

How is gestational diabetes managed?

The primary goal of managing gestational diabetes is to keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range. This can be achieved through a combination of dietary changes, physical activity, and, in some cases, medication.

Dietary changes: Women with gestational diabetes are typically advised to follow a healthy eating plan that includes a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Foods that are high in sugar and simple carbohydrates should be limited, and meals should be spaced out throughout the day to help regulate blood sugar levels.

Physical activity: Regular physical activity can also help to regulate blood sugar levels. Women with gestational diabetes are typically advised to engage in moderate exercise, such as walking or swimming, for at least 30 minutes a day.

Medication: In some cases, medication may be needed to help regulate blood sugar levels. This may include insulin injections or oral medications.

Why is it important to manage gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes can have serious consequences for both mother and baby if left untreated. High blood sugar levels can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery, such as pre-eclampsia, preterm labor, and delivery by cesarean section. It can also increase the risk of the baby being born with a high birth weight, which can lead to complications during delivery and an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.

By managing gestational diabetes, women can help to ensure the health of both themselves and their babies. This typically involves making lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular physical activity, as well as working closely with a healthcare provider to monitor blood sugar levels and adjust treatment as needed.

We also have a podcast on Gestational Diabetes with guest speaker Amanda Lura, CNM

What you need to know about Gestational Diabetes with Midwife Amanda Lura

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