We all know that staying healthy and making smart choices during pregnancy is important for the health of the mother and of the growing fetus whether diabetes is in the picture or not.
People who are pregnant and have diabetes generally fall into one of three categories: those with pre-existing type one or type two diabetes and those with gestational diabetes. Pregnant women with pre-existing diabetes account for only 10% of the diabetic pregnancies. The vast majority have gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is the term used to describe diabetes that develops during the course of a pregnancy.
Defining Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar that all of a sudden appears at some point of the pregnancy. It is defined by a series of blood tests but the important thing to recognize is that with pregnancy, the hormones produced by the placenta increase by more than triple. That increase in those hormones makes the pancreas have to work harder and harder to cover the same meals so that somewhere, halfway through the pregnancy, the pancreas cannot keep up and so the blood sugars get too high. Once the placenta is delivered, the baby comes out and those hormones will reduce and in most women, the diabetes will no longer be present.
Who is at risk?
Women who have gestational diabetes are more likely to come from families with gestational diabetes. Every single pregnant woman is screened now because up in some populations, up to 12% of pregnant women have gestational diabetes. Even in low-frequency population, maybe 8% have the diabetes. Some women need to be screened early in pregnancy because they may develop high blood sugars earlier. Those would be women who have primary family members with type 2 diabetes, who have had a previous large baby, who are over the age of 35, and who weighed more than 200 pounds.
The formal screening for gestational diabetes is a glucose drink that is given to the woman and if it over a threshold value, then she has a full three hour glucose tolerance test. The reason it takes three hours to look at it is because doctor want to know how the woman’s body is reacting to a fairly large sugar load. If the woman’s body cannot keep the blood sugars into a reasonable range, she will need help.
The hormones in pregnancy increase progressively as the pregnancy goes on. Some women become gestational diabetic at every single month of the pregnancy. Women with strong risk factors should be tested by the 8th or 12th weeks of pregnancy. For the remainder, tests are administered between 26th and 28th weeks. That allows, once recognized, to institute treatment and hopefully keep the baby from getting to large.
Preventing Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes can be prevented by normalizing our body fat and by developing a regular exercise regimen which needs to b continued during the pregnancy. Dietary changes will also have to be implemented. These changes are not difficult, in fact eating the foods that help control blood sugars are the foods we all should be eating anyways. Foods that release glucose slowly are preferred because they allow the mother’s body to buy her own natural defenses to keep the blood sugars down. Dietary fiber is really emphasized and mother’s who mixed carbohydrates, protein, and fats and combined that with exercise will go a long way in controlling the blood sugars.
Managing your weight or losing some pounds before becoming pregnant can also help with preventing gestational diabetes. If you see baby in your future, shedding off the extra pounds beforehand may help you have a healthier pregnancy. Focusing on the long-term health benefits of losing weight will help to motivate you. Don’t mistake that to lose weight while you are pregnant since your body is already putting in a lot of work to support your baby’s development.