Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy. Like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes affects how your glucose levels. It causes high blood sugar that can affect your pregnancy and your baby’s health.
Any pregnancy complication is worrisome, but expectant mothers can manage gestational diabetes by eating healthy foods, exercising and, if necessary, taking medication. Controlling blood sugar can prevent consequences at the time of birth and keep you and your baby healthy.
Blood sugar usually returns to normal soon after delivery but if you’ve had gestational diabetes you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes. For most women, gestational diabetes doesn’t cause noticeable signs or symptoms.
Causes of gestational diabetes
Researchers are clueless as to why some women develop gestational diabetes. To understand how gestational diabetes occurs, it can help to understand how pregnancy affects your body’s glucose processing.
Your body digests the food you eat to produce glucose that enters your bloodstream. The pancreas then produces insulin, which helps glucose move from your bloodstream into your body’s cells, where it’s used as energy.
During pregnancy, the placenta, which connects your baby to your blood supply, produces high levels of various other hormones. These hormones blocks insulin in your cells, raising your blood sugar. Normal increase in blood sugar after meals is normal during pregnancy.
As your baby develops, the placenta makes more insulin-blocking hormones. In gestational diabetes, the placental hormones provoke a rise in blood sugar to a level that can affect the growth and welfare of your baby. Gestational diabetes usually develops in the last leg of pregnancy.
Available treatments for gestational diabetes
It is crucial to monitor your blood sugar to keep your baby healthy and avoid complications during pregnancy and delivery. Your treatment options may include:
- Monitoring your blood sugar: While you’re pregnant, your gynecologist may ask you to check your blood sugar four to five times a day. This may be inconvenient but will get easier with practice. She will monitor and manage your blood sugar during labor and delivery. If your blood sugar rises, your baby’s pancreas may release high levels of insulin which can lead to low blood sugar in your baby right after birth. Follow-up blood sugar checks are equally important. Maintaining health-promoting lifestyle can help reduce your risk.
- Healthy diet: A healthy diet focuses on fruits, vegetables and whole grains targeting nutrition and fiber and limited amount of fat and calories. You may need professional help from a dietician to create a meal plan. Eating the right kinds of food in healthy portions is one of the best ways to control your blood sugar and prevent too much weight gain, which can put you at higher risk of complications.
- Exercise: Regular physical activity plays a key role in every woman’s wellness, before, during or after pregnancy. While exercise lowers your blood sugar, it also increases your cells’ sensitivity to insulin. Only when your gynecologist agrees, aim for moderately vigorous exercise on most days of the week.
- Medication: You may require insulin injections to lower your blood sugar if exercise doesn’t work out as expected. Approximately 10 and 20 percent of women with gestational diabetes need insulin to reach their blood sugar goals.
- Close monitoring of your baby: Close observation of your baby is of extreme importance in a treatment plan. Your gynecologist may monitor your baby’s growth and development with repeated ultrasounds or other tests. If you don’t go into labor by your due date, your gynecologist may induce labor.
You’ll probably feel better if you educate yourself about gestational diabetes
. Read articles, books and stay in touch with your gynecologist.