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Gestational Diabetes

Gestational Diabetes

Everything you need to know about
Gestational Diabetes

Some women may experience elevated blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) or gestational diabetes is the medical term for this illness. Between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy, gestational diabetes usually appears.

One in every 23 pregnancies in the United Kingdom GDM indicates that the mother is at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

If you acquire gestational diabetes when you’re pregnant, it doesn’t indicate you already had diabetes or will develop it thereafter. However, gestational diabetes increases your chances of acquiring type 2 diabetes later in life.

It can also increase the risk of diabetes in your child and issues for you and your baby during pregnancy and delivery if it is not properly treated.

What are the signs and symptoms of pregnancy diabetes?

Symptoms of gestational diabetes are uncommon. If you do get symptoms, they will most likely be minor. Some examples are:

  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Extreme thirst
  • A strong desire to urinate
  • Yeast infections

How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?

The National Health Service (NHS) recommends that doctors check pregnant women for indications of gestational diabetes on a regular basis. When you’re 24 to 28 weeks pregnant, your doctor will likely check you for gestational diabetes if you have no known history of diabetes and normal blood sugar readings at the start of your pregnancy.

Test for glucose tolerance

A glucose challenge test may be used by certain clinicians to start. This test does not require any preparation.

A glucose solution will be consumed. A blood test will be given to you after an hour. A 3-hour oral glucose tolerance test may be performed if your blood sugar level is high. This is referred to as two-step testing.

Some doctors merely administer a 2-hour glucose tolerance test instead of the glucose challenge test. This is referred to as one-step testing.

One-step test

  1. Your doctor will start by checking your blood sugar levels before eating.
  2. They’ll ask you to consume a carbohydrate solution containing 75 grammes (g).
  3. After 1 hour and 2 hours, they will test your blood sugar levels again.

If you have any of the following blood sugar levels, you’re likely to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes:

  • A fasting blood sugar level of 92 milligrammes per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher
  • Blood sugar level more than or equal to 180 mg/dL after 1 hour
  • Blood sugar level more than or equal to 153 mg/dL after 2 hours

Two-step test

  1. You will not need to fast for the two-step test.
  2. They will ask you to consume a 50-gram sugar solution.
  3. After an hour, they will test your blood sugar.

If your blood sugar level is between 130 and 140 mg/dL at that point, your doctor may suggest a second test on a separate day. The threshold for identifying this is set by your doctor.

  1. Your doctor will begin the second test by checking your fasting blood sugar level.
  2. They’ll have you drink a solution containing 100 grammes of sugar.
  3. Your blood sugar will be tested 1, 2, and 3 hours later.

If you have at least two of the following numbers, you’re likely to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes:

  • A fasting blood sugar level of 95 mg/dL or 105 mg/dL is considered high.
  • Blood sugar level more than or equivalent to 180 mg/dL or 190 mg/dL after 1 hour.
  • Blood sugar level more than or equivalent to 155 mg/dL or 165 mg/dL after 2 hours.
  • Blood sugar level more than or equivalent to 140 mg/dL or 145 mg/dL after three hours.

Is it necessary for me to be concerned about type 2 diabetes as well?

The National Health Service (NHS) recommends that doctors check pregnant women for indications of gestational diabetes on a regular basis. When you’re 24 to 28 weeks pregnant, your doctor will likely check you for gestational diabetes if you have no known history of diabetes and normal blood sugar readings at the start of your pregnancy.

Test for glucose tolerance

It is also recommended that a doctor checks pregnant women for type 2 diabetes at the start of their pregnancy. If you have type 2 diabetes risk factors, your doctor will most likely test you for the disease at your first prenatal visit.

Some of the risk factors include:

  • Being overweight
  • Being inactive
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having low levels of good high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in your blood
  • Having high levels of triglycerides in your blood
  • Having a family history of diabetes
  • Having a history of gestational diabetes, prediabetes, or signs of insulin resistance
  • Having given birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds previously
  • Having ancestors who are African, Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander, Hispanic, or Native Hawaiian

Causes

Although the actual origin of gestational diabetes is uncertain, hormones are most likely to blame. When you’re pregnant, your body makes more of certain hormones, such as:

Lactogen from the human placenta (hPL)

additional hormones that make you resistant to insulin

These hormones influence your placenta and aid in the continuation of your pregnancy. The number of these hormones in your body grows over time. They may cause your body to become resistant to insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar levels.

 

Insulin aids in the transport of glucose from your bloodstream to your cells, where it is used for energy. Your body becomes slightly insulin resistant during pregnancy, allowing more glucose to be available in your bloodstream to be delivered to the baby. Your blood glucose levels may rise abnormally if your insulin resistance gets too great. Gestational diabetes can result from this.

Complications

Your blood sugar levels may remain higher than they should be during your pregnancy if your gestational diabetes is poorly managed. This can cause problems and have an impact on your child’s health.

When your infant is born, for example, they may have:

  • An excessive birth weight
  • Problems in breathing
  • Low blood sugar levels
  • Shoulder dystocia is a condition in which a woman’s shoulders become caught in the birth canal during childbirth.

They may also be more susceptible to diabetes later in life. That’s why it’s critical to take efforts to manage your gestational diabetes by sticking to your doctor’s treatment plan.

Treatment

Your treatment plan for gestational diabetes will be determined by your blood sugar levels throughout the day.

In most situations, your doctor will recommend that you test your blood sugar before and after meals and that you control your condition by eating a nutrient-dense diet and exercising regularly.

If necessary, they may also administer insulin injections. If your doctor advises you to keep track of your blood sugar levels, you may be given a glucose-monitoring gadget.

They may also advise you to take insulin shots until you give delivery. To avoid low blood sugar, talk to your doctor about how to time your insulin shots in relation to your meals and exercise.

Your doctor can also advise you on what to do if your blood sugar levels are consistently too low or too high.

Diet and Exercise for Gestational Diabetes

Eat a healthy DIET

A healthy diet is essential for managing gestational diabetes. People with gestational diabetes, in particular, should monitor their carbohydrate, protein, and fat intake.

Eating frequently — every 2 hours or so — can also help you control your blood sugar levels.

Carbohydrates

Blood sugar rises can be avoided by properly spacing carbohydrate-rich diets.

Your doctor will assist you in determining the exact amount of carbohydrates you should consume each day. They may also suggest that you consult a qualified dietician for assistance with meal planning.

Carbohydrates that promote health include:

  • Whole grains
  • Rice (brown)
  • Legumes such as beans, peas, lentils, and others
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits with a reduced sugar content

Protein

Protein should be consumed in two to three servings per day by pregnant women. Lean meats and chicken, fish, and tofu are all good sources of protein.

Fish is healthy for you and your baby’s development, so try to consume it on a regular basis.

At least two meals of oily fish per week are recommended, including at least one portion of mackerel, sardines, salmon, herrings, trout, or pilchards. Oily fish is great for your heart, but limit yourself to two servings each week because it includes low levels of contaminants (toxins). A portion is around 140g.

Fish with high mercury levels, such as swordfish, shark, and marlin, should be avoided. Also, limit yourself to four medium-sized tuna cans or two tuna steaks per week, as it contains higher levels of mercury than other fish.

When you’re pregnant, you should avoid certain foods, such as raw shellfish. More information about which foods to avoid or be cautious about while pregnant may be found on the NHS website.

Fat

The following are some healthy fats to add to your diet:

  • Nuts without salt
  • Seeds
  • Oil of olives
  • Avocado

More information on what to eat, and what to avoid, if you have gestational diabetes can be found here.

Exercise throughout your pregnancy

Maintain your fitness throughout your pregnancy. If your doctor says it’s okay, you can exercise if you have gestational diabetes. Being physically active can help you regulate your blood sugar. Maintaining a healthy weight throughout pregnancy benefits your posture and might help you avoid common concerns like backaches and fatigue.

  • As soon as possible, go active. On most days of the week, aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity. Running, walking, swimming, and biking are all excellent choices.
  • Was there a workout you were performing prior to learning you were expecting? Is there something you enjoy doing? Consult your doctor to see whether you can continue, if you need to make any changes, or if you should try something else.
  • Exercise can help to reduce blood sugar levels. So bring a source of fast sugar with you when you exercise, such as glucose pills or hard candies.

Get the correct prenatal care: Your doctor can not only check you for this issue, but also provide you advice on nutrition, exercise, and weight loss. They can also refer you to other health specialists who can help, such as nutritionists.

Eat modest snacks if you get morning sickness. Before getting out of bed, munch on crackers, cereal, or pretzels. Eat small meals frequently throughout the day and avoid fatty, fried, and greasy foods.

Risk Factors

If you’re pregnant, you’re more likely to acquire gestational diabetes if you:

  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have a family history of diabetes
  • Before you became pregnant, you were overweight
  • Gaining an abnormally big amount of weight while pregnant
  • Are expecting several babies
  • Have given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds in the past
  • Previously had gestational diabetes
  • Have had an unexplained miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Have been on steroids like glucocorticoids
  • Have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), acanthosis nigricans, or other insulin resistance-related diseases
  • Have ancestors that are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander

Prevention

It is impossible to completely avoid gestational diabetes. Adopting health-promoting practices, on the other hand, can help minimise your chances of having the disease.

If you’re pregnant and have a risk factor for gestational diabetes, make an effort to consume a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Even mild exercise like walking can be useful.

If you’re hoping to become pregnant in the near future and are overweight, talk to a healthcare practitioner about strategies to safely lose weight before you start your pregnancy.

They can assist you in developing a strategy for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. You can minimise your risk of gestational diabetes by shedding even a small amount of weight.

Additionally, pregnant women should seek prenatal care and attend all doctor-recommended visits in order to acquire the necessary exams and evaluations during their pregnancies.

Outlook

After giving birth, your blood sugar should return to normal. However, gestational diabetes increases your chances of acquiring type 2 diabetes later in life. Inquire with your doctor about ways to reduce your risk of getting this condition and its complications.