While we all hope for an easy healthy pregnancy, the reality is that complications may arise. Complications like gestational diabetes affect pregnant women who, before conceiving, did not have diabetes. This condition affects 2-10% of pregnancies, generally around the 24th week. This can be a concerning complication as blood sugar levels are high, which can impact the mother and the baby during this time.
Causes of Gestational Diabetes
Pregnancy causes many changes to occur in the body. One includes the release and regulation of hormones, such as insulin. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that acts like a key to let blood sugar into the cells to use as energy.
As a result of changes to the body, pregnant women may become insulin resistant. This means the body uses insulin less effectively and does not regulate blood glucose levels effectively. The result is higher than normal blood sugars, consistent with Gestational Diabetes.
While there is not one specific cause of this type of diabetes, there are numerous risk factors that may increase the odds of developing it, including:
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of physical activity
- Being prediabetic before becoming pregnant
- History of gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy
- Having polycystic ovary syndrome
- Immediate family history of type 2 diabetes
- Previously delivered a baby weighing more than 9 pounds (4.1 kilograms)
- Pregnant women over the age of 25
Symptoms – in most cases, gestational diabetes is identified and treated before significant symptoms develop. However, if left unmanaged and sugars levels run quite high, the following symptoms can occur:
- Urinating more frequently
- Increased hunger
- Thirstier than normal
- Blurred vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Unexplained weight loss
- Fatigue –more than normal
- Dry mouth
Preventing Gestational Diabetes
- Proper prenatal care – read more about prenatal care
- Follow a healthy diet – read more about eating well
- Keep active – read more about exercise during pregnancy
- Start pregnancy at a healthy weight
- Don’t gain more weight than recommended
Routinely, a glucose challenge test is scheduled around 24-28 weeks of pregnancy to check for gestational diabetes. If you are experiencing any symptoms, you should talk to your doctor as soon as possible. They likely will schedule this test and any others sooner.
Treatments: Following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and achieving healthy weight gain are all key to managing gestational diabetes. In addition, you will need to monitor your blood sugar regularly. Some women can manage blood sugar levels with lifestyle measures alone. Others may need insulin shots or other oral medications.
Monitoring: Gestational Diabetes increases the risks of complications during pregnancy. Therefore, there is typically more monitoring – especially near the end of the pregnancy. Typically mom should be testing her blood sugar four times per day. In the clinic, additional monitoring may include ultrasounds, regular monitoring of the fetal heart rate, and more frequent doctor visits. Often, labor is induced early to prevent some of the complications. Keeping blood sugars well controlled helps reduce the risk of complications.
Have more questions about gestational diabetes? Talk to your doctor today.