Sharing your body with your baby, throughout pregnancy, is an experience like no other. It is a tremendous responsibility to make sure that they enter this world as healthy as possible. Recently, more and more women are experiencing symptoms of diabetes during pregnancy, which can be harmful for both you and your baby.
Fortunately, it is actually quite easy to reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes, and stop it from affecting your baby.
Let’s take a closer look at how.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational Diabetes is when a pregnant woman has symptoms of diabetes, due to unnaturally high levels of glucose in her bloodstream. This happens to 3–10 percent of expectant mothers, a number that continues to rise.
Our bodies naturally produce insulin that helps to control glucose levels. When you eat a sugary snack, your body starts to produce more insulin, to keep the glucose levels in check. When you haven’t eaten a meal for a while, the level of insulin in your blood drops to keep your glucose levels balanced.
The hormonal changes during pregnancy, combined with a diet high in sugar, can cause the insulin in your body to stop controlling your glucose properly. This can be worrying as too much glucose in your blood can lead to gestational diabetes, and affect the health of both you and your baby.
What Harm Can It Cause?
There could be serious effects if you have gestational diabetes, and if it is not managed properly.
For your baby, this can lead to a large birth weight and other birth traumas, such as shoulder dystocia and brachial plexus injury. Straight after birth, your baby will be more likely to have low blood sugar levels, which can result in jaundice, low body temperature and tiredness.
It is also more likely that you will need to give birth via Cesarean section, and you will be at a higher risk of getting Type 2 Diabetes later on in life, as well. This can be an ongoing health condition that requires drastic dietary changes and often medication to manage the symptoms.
Are You at Risk?
Some women are more likely to get gestational diabetes while they are pregnant, than others. This doesn’t mean that you will get it, just that you should take care to try to prevent it and watch out for symptoms so you can stop it from causing harm to your baby.
Here are some things that put you at a higher risk for getting diabetes while you are pregnant:
- Overweight or obese (BMI greater than 25).
- Family history of Type 2 diabetes.
- Older than 35.
- Gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy.
- Previous baby born with a large birth weight or a stillbirth.
If you think you might be at a higher risk, you should talk to your doctor about your concerns and the possibility of being tested for gestational diabetes. It is better to know if you have it so that you can make changes to protect the health of you and your baby!
How Can You Try to Prevent It?
There are several things that you can do to try to protect yourself from gestational diabetes.
- Limit the amount of sugary and highly processed foods that you eat. Many foods contain a lot of sugar even though they don’t taste sweet, so it is always best to read the food information label to be sure.
- Focus on eating regular meals that are high in fiber, including whole grains and lots of vegetables.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. Physical activity doesn’t have to be high intensity; as long as it gets your heart pumping, even a brisk walk counts!
How Do You Know If You Have It?
Many women don’t suffer symptoms and need to be tested to find out if they have gestational diabetes. This test is usually done between 24 and 28 weeks into their pregnancy. If you are at a particularly high risk, you may be tested earlier, but it is routinely done at this time.
Your doctor will explain to you how the test works although usually the level of glucose in your blood is tested about an hour after drinking a sugary beverage. If you have higher glucose than usual, more tests will be done to confirm the diagnosis.
Occasionally, some women also experience symptoms such as increased thirst and urination although many women who don’t notice this may also have gestational diabetes.
What Can You Do If You Have It?
If you have gestational diabetes, it is important that you make positive changes to your lifestyle to reduce the health effects it will have on you and your baby.
- STEP 1: Rethink Your Diet
Your diet is very important to treat gestational diabetes. In particular, you should aim to limit foods that are processed and high in sugar. Instead, eat frequent small meals that contain a lot of fiber and fresh vegetables.
- STEP 2: Up the Exercise
Are you already exercising for at least half an hour every day? Most people aren’t, but this simple step can make a huge difference. Even light exercise helps burn the glucose in your bloodstream.
- STEP 3: Get Your Vitamins
It is essential for pregnant women to get the vitamins they need to help their baby grow, such as a prenatal vitamin, omega-3 fatty acid supplements, and antioxidants. Talk to you doctor or pharmacist to get advice about the best options for you.
- STEP 4: Discuss Medications
In some cases, medication is needed to help manage gestational diabetes, such as additional insulin, to supplement what your body is already making naturally.
Knowing about gestational diabetes and what you can do to prevent and treat it is the first step to protect your baby from excess glucose. You can take control of the condition and take proactive steps to ensure both you and your baby stay as healthy as possible!References