Gestational Diabetes: Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes which occurs in women during pregnancy. It occurs in around 4 percent of all pregnancies. This form of diabetes can occur at any pregnancy stage, but often occurs in the second half of pregnancy. Once the baby is born, gestational diabetes usually disappears. Any pregnant woman is at risk of developing this type of diabetes, but it is more common in certain group of women. Women who had this diabetes during previous pregnancy are at more risk of getting the disease. If poorly managed, gestational diabetes can have adverse problems to pregnant women and their babies. Women with diabetes during pregnancy are also at a risk of contracting Type 2 diabetes. It can also cause the fetus to be bigger than normal, which may lead to complications during birth. The best way to prevent this risk is to make sure the disease is detected early during pregnancy through and properly managed through a nutritional plan.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
It is a form of diabetes characterized by high blood sugar levels in pregnant women. It usually happens in pregnant women who cannot normally produce insulin to cope with hormonal changes and baby growth. Insulin is responsible for regulating the level of blood sugar in your body. If you cannot produce enough insulin, it will lead to increased levels of blood sugar. This can affect you and your baby’s health during pregnancy and after birth. However, controlling your blood sugar through exercise and medication can help prevent complications caused by gestational diabetes. The high blood sugar levels in pregnant women usually return to normal levels after giving birth. However, it is important you continue to monitor your blood sugar levels after birth, to prevent the risk of contracting Type 2 diabetes. Working closely with your doctor is important if you are at greater risk of contracting gestational diabetes during your next pregnancy.
Symptoms & Signs of diabetes during pregnancy
For most pregnant women with gestational diabetes, they do not show signs or symptoms of the condition. However, women who have high levels of blood sugar may develop symptoms like:
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Frequent bladder or vaginal infection
- Sugar in urine
Some of these symptoms are common in most pregnant women. However, in case you experience worrying signs and symptoms, you should inform your doctor immediately.
This type of diabetes occurs in women who cannot naturally produce enough insulin needed during pregnancy. Pregnant women usually go through different changes like weight gain and hormonal changes, which makes their body resistant to insulin. As a result, these women develop this disease. Pregnant women who come from a family with a history of diabetes may also develop gestational diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes Treatment
The best way to manage and treat gestational diabetes is to make sure you are screened for the disease during pregnancy. Most women who are pregnant are tested for this diabetes between the 24th week and 28th week of pregnancy. If diabetes during pregnancy is detected, your health care professional will come up with a treatment plan for you. Treatment for the disease usually involves a healthy meal plan and an exercise program. Your doctor may recommend that you exercise regularly and have a healthy diet so that you can control the level of blood sugar in your body. You don’t have to eat specific types of foods, but you may need to change your diet or walk a few times a week, so that you can control your blood sugar levels. These lifestyle changes will help you remain healthy during pregnancy and prevent future risks of contracting gestational diabetes.
The treatment includes the following:
- Eating a healthy meal
If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you will meet with your nutritionist who will create a healthy meal plan for you. Your dietitian will show you how to reduce the amount of carbohydrates you consume so that you can control your blood sugar levels. Instead, they will advise you to eat low GI and starchy foods that slowly release sugar. You may not need a diet that is completely sugar free, but you will need to substitute sugary foods like cakes with fruits. Your meal plan may require you eat vegetables and fresh fruits and reduce the amount of fat intake to less than 30 percent of calories daily. Watch the portion of food you take. You can limit the fat intake by taking lean meat instead of red meat.
Regular exercise is included in the treatment plan because it helps your body to use blood sugar better without the need of extra insulin. In addition, regular exercise is helpful in fighting insulin resistance in your body. You may need to have a moderate exercise routine of 30 minutes every day. Low impact sports like swimming or walking is advisable for pregnant women with gestational diabetes. However, you should not begin this exercise if you have not been exercising regularly before you became pregnant.
- Checking blood sugar levels
Checking blood sugar levels is an important form of treatment for pregnant women with gestational diabetes. Once you are diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy, you will get a testing kit that you can use to monitor your blood sugar levels at home. Your doctor will teach you how to correctly check your blood sugar levels, and what levels you should target.
What medications to take for the treatment
In case the level of your blood sugar is very high, your doctor may prescribe medication or insulin injection for you. Also, medication may be prescribed if exercise or change in diet does not control your blood sugar levels in the first two weeks. If you have gestational diabetes, your doctor may prescribe metformin tablets. You may also require to inject yourself with insulin before you take meals or after waking up. It is important for pregnant women to stick with their treatment plan to ensure they have a healthy pregnancy and delivery. However, take note that the medication you take will be stopped after giving birth.
Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.