What is Gestational Diabetes?
If you are pregnant, overweight and are genetically dispositioned to becoming diabetic, this question may be at the top of your list of ‘things to find out’.
Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition marked by elevated blood sugar levels during the course of pregnancy. Usually diagnosed in the later stages of pregnancy, gestational diabetes is more common in women who have prediabetes, are overweight and have a family history of type 2 diabetes.
An analysis conducted in 2014 by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the prevalence of gestational diabetes is as high as 9.2% in America. It’s not yet clear what causes gestational diabetes. Doctors believe it can be triggered by hormonal changes in the body during pregnancy. This makes some women become resistant to insulin, causing blood sugar levels to rise.
Are You At Risk?
Some risk factors associated with gestational diabetes include:
- Higher susceptibility due to being overweight at the time of pregnancy, as per research.
- Having an immediate family member who has type 2 diabetes.
- Being diagnosed with prediabetes before you get pregnant.
- Having insulin resistance and a history of polycystic ovarian syndrome or acanthosis nigricans.
- Belonging to an ethnic group that has a natural predisposition for developing gestational diabetes like African American women, Asian-American women, Native American women and Hispanic women.
Most women will not experience any noticeable signs or symptoms of gestational diabetes. This is why pregnant women (especially those who are overweight and are at risk of developing gestational diabetes) must get a gestational diabetes screening test during their second trimester.
The Effects Of Gestational Diabetes On Your Baby And You
A diagnosis of gestational diabetes usually comes late in your pregnancy. This means that your baby has already been formed and is busy growing. The result, you ask? Extra blood glucose travels through the placenta, giving the baby high blood glucose levels. This results in the fetus becoming larger than normal and can cause complications during delivery.
Overweight babies face health problems of their own, including damage to their shoulders during birth. Since the baby’s pancreas make additional insulin to get rid of the extra blood sugars, newborns may have very low blood glucose levels at birth. They are also at a higher risk for developing breathing problems and jaundice.
If you are detected with gestational diabetes early on, it can increase the risk for miscarriage, pre-eclampsia and birth defects. Also, gestational diabetes increases your risk of suffering from type 2 diabetes post-pregnancy, according to research.
Gestational Diabetes Diet and Treatment Plan
It’s imperative that you get the right gestational diabetes treatment to prevent future complications for both your baby and you. It is possible to manage gestational diabetes with the right diet and an exercise regime that works for you. Both these changes are effective in controlling blood sugar levels. We highly recommend a LCHF diet (Low Carb High Fat) to reverse diabetes. Remember: Low Carbs does not mean No Carbs, especially for when you are eating for two. You want to ensure that the baby gets all the components needed to grow, but in the right measure only. Combine this with gentle exercises that are safe for you and your baby and you’re good to go. Think prenatal yoga, swimming and gentle walks.
Talk to your medical practitioner and chart out a special gestational diabetes diet. A diet that is best for you is –
- Low in carbohydrates
- High in good quality fats
- Includes lots of vegetables and fruits
- Includes healthy proteins
Not only will this diet keep blood sugar levels under control, it will also help you lose weight and feel more energized. Thus, you are better prepared for your upcoming delivery.
If diet and exercise alone aren’t effective, then you may need additional insulin as well. It’s important to monitor your blood sugar levels, especially post meals, to make sure your glucose isn’t too high. Your doctor will test your blood sugar levels regularly for the rest of your pregnancy. You will, also, need to test your levels daily at home.
How Can You Prevent Gestational Diabetes?
Is gestational diabetes preventable? According to a Finnish study, the answer is yes. Researchers found that a moderately-individualized lifestyle intervention reduces the incidence of gestational diabetes by 39% in high-risk pregnant women.
So, what does that mean? It means that you should analyse your current diet and degree of exercise to make changes that resonate on an individual level. Simply put, the best way to lower your risk for gestational diabetes is by staying fit and eating healthy before you get pregnant.
If you’re overweight, work on improving your diet. A healthy LCHF diet and light exercises, daily, will go a long way in keeping your blood sugar levels under control. Talk to your doctor about safe ways of losing weight. Even a few pounds can make a difference in your level of risk for gestational diabetes.
- Change your sedentary lifestyle by committing to regular physical activity. Start with a simple 30-minute walk, thrice a week. Joining prenatal yoga classes will also help you get fitter, healthier and increase your stamina.
- While it’s not recommended to lose a lot of weight once you are already pregnant, you can bring about positive changes in your weight by eating right.
With the right care, women with gestational diabetes go on to deliver healthy babies. If you have modified your diet and gotten more physically fit, chances of you being diabetes-free post-delivery are higher. Gestational diabetes increases your risk for Type II diabetes later in life. So, it is important to eat right and continue exercising, even after your delivery. We owe it to ourselves to maintain a healthy weight for life.