Desmond Croker RN, Dip. OHS, BSN, MSN, CCDE
July 25 2023
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can eventually occur during pregnancy. It happens when your body can't make enough insulin or use it properly to keep your blood sugar levels in check. Insulin is a hormone that helps your cells use glucose for energy.
Gestational diabetes can cause high blood sugar levels that can affect your pregnancy and your baby's health.
Some of the possible effects include:
- An increase in your blood pressure
- A higher risk of preeclampsia (a serious condition that can cause seizures, organ damage, or even death)
- An increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life
- A high birth weight for your baby
- A premature delivery
- Respiratory distress syndrome (a breathing problem) for your baby
- Low blood sugar levels for your baby
- A higher risk of future diabetes for your baby
Most of the time, gestational diabetes doesn't cause any noticeable signs or symptoms. You may have some increased thirst, sweating, or frequent urination, but these are also common during pregnancy.
The only way to know for sure if you have gestational diabetes is to get tested by your health care provider. This is part of the routine prenatal care that you should receive during pregnancy.
Your health care provider will check your blood sugar levels before and after meals. If the test shows high levels of sugar, you may need to repeat the test more often or take medication to control your blood sugar levels.
While gestational diabetes is not always preventable, there are some steps you can take to reduce your chances of developing it. Here are five ways to prevent gestational diabetes from a diabetes expert:
1 . Go into pregnancy at a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese before pregnancy can increase your risk of gestational diabetes. Try to lose excess weight before getting pregnant by making healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.
2 . Eat healthy foods: During pregnancy, you need to eat nutritious foods that can provide enough energy and nutrients for you and your baby. Choose foods that are low in fat and salt and high in fiber and protein, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, beans, nuts, and seeds. Avoid processed and baked foods that are high in sugar and calories.
3. Exercise regularly: Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and improve your insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week. You can do activities like walking, swimming, cycling, or dancing. Talk to your health care provider before starting any exercise program during pregnancy.
4 . Monitor your blood sugar levels: Keeping track of your blood sugar levels can help you manage them better and avoid complications. Use a home glucose monitor or follow your health care provider's instructions on how to check your blood sugar levels at regular intervals.
5. Take medication if needed: If your blood sugar levels are too high and can't be controlled by diet and exercise alone, you may need to take medication to lower them. Your health care provider or diabetes educator may prescribe you insulin injections or oral antidiabetic drugs, depending on your condition and preference. Follow your health care provider's advice on how to use the medication safely and effectively.
Having gestational diabetes doesn't mean that you can't enjoy your pregnancy. You can still have a healthy and happy pregnancy by following these tips:
- Stay positive: Don't let gestational diabetes get you down. Remember that it's a temporary condition that can be managed with proper care. Focus on the positive aspects of your pregnancy, such as feeling your baby's movements, hearing your baby's heartbeat, or seeing your baby's ultrasound.
- Seek support: Don't hesitate to ask for help from your health care provider, family, friends, or other pregnant women who have gestational diabetes. They can offer you advice, encouragement, or practical assistance when you need it. You can also join online forums or support groups for women with gestational diabetes to share your experiences and learn from others.
- Treat yourself: Having gestational diabetes doesn't mean that you have to deprive yourself of everything you love. You can still indulge in some of your favorite foods or activities once in a while, as long as you do it in moderation and balance it with healthy choices. For example, you can have a small piece of cake or chocolate for dessert, as long as you eat a healthy meal beforehand and check your blood sugar levels afterward.
Gestational diabetes is a condition that can affect some women during pregnancy. It can cause high blood sugar levels that can harm both you and your baby's health. However, you can prevent or manage gestational diabetes by following some simple steps, such as eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, monitoring your blood sugar levels, taking medication if needed, and enjoying your pregnancy without worrying too much.
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