What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational Diabetes is an elevated blood sugar level in a pregnant woman that did not previously have a diagnosis of diabetes. These elevated blood sugar during pregnancy occur due to insulin resistance related to increased hormone levels. It also increases health risks for both mom and baby during pregnancy and after delivery.
Complications of gestational diabetes:
- Increased chance that baby will be large for gestational age which leads to an increased chance of cesarean delivery and/or birth trauma
- The baby may have low blood sugar after delivery
- Premature delivery which can lead to infant have difficulty breathing and other complications
- Increases risk of mom developing type 2 diabetes later in life
Unlike type 1 or type 2 diabetes, there are typically no symptoms.
Risk factors include:
- Overweight and obese pre-pregnancy weight
- An immediate relative with type 2 DM
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Previous delivery of a baby weighing greater than 9 lbs
- Previous pregnancy with gestational diabetes
Many health professionals feel that there are steps you can take to help prevent gestational diabetes and have a healthy pregnancy.
Preventing Gestational Diabetes:
- Eat a balanced diet, including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins
- Limit added sugars in food and beverages
- Participate in regular physical activity; at least 30 minutes most days (with doctor approval)
- Before pregnancy, maintain a healthy weight
- During pregnancy, maintain weight gain within the recommendations for your pre-pregnancy weight
- Weight loss during pregnancy is not recommended
- Obtain prenatal medical care
How is it diagnosed?
Doctors routinely screen for this condition during the 5th month of pregnancy using a fasting oral glucose tolerance test. This test requires an overnight fast before drinking a glucose-containing liquid. Professionals will draw blood and evaluate 1 to 3 hours after consumption.
If diagnosed with gestational diabetes, medical nutrition therapy, physical activity, and medications may be used to treat the condition. Working with your physician and a registered dietitian nutritionist is important to help maintain blood sugars and minimize risks associated with gestational diabetes.