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I overheard a woman talking about her pregnancy while out to lunch today. She mentioned to her friend that everything was going great and that she was over the moon with excitement for her little one. Her friend mentioned how difficult her own pregnancy was due to gestational diabetes and the soon to be mom interrupted her by saying, “Yeah, I don’t have diabetes.” Her friend stated that she also wasn’t diabetic before pregnancy, but had developed gestational diabetes, she was interrupted again with, “I eat healthy, so I’m fine, thanks.” I am not sure why the subject of GD is such a hot topic for this woman and many others, but maybe it’s time to learn a little more on the subject.
If you have ever spent time on pregnancy forums and mommy blogs, you have probably seen posts about women finding out they have gestational diabetes. They are confused and scared because they most likely were not expecting the diagnosis. With about 9% of pregnant women developing GD, it is no wonder many Obstetricians are testing all their pregnant patients.
What Causes Gestational Diabetes
Like type 1 and type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes occurs when the body is unable to digest glucose properly. When you are pregnant, the placenta produces hormones that help the baby develop and grow. Those same hormones can block the mother’s insulin from attaching to glucose for transport. This problem is called insulin resistance and causes the mother's blood sugar levels to rise.
Who is Most at Risk?
Researchers are not sure why some woman develop GD, and others do not. There are however some factors that put some women at a higher risk.
How Does GD Complicate Pregnancy?
Gestational diabetes is manageable and in most cases the pregnancies and babies are healthy. In cases where GD was not caught in time or was not managed properly, complications can arise. For mothers some of the complication are:
Possible complications for the baby include:
Diagnosis and Management
Most doctors will begin testing women between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy. They will perform a glucose tolerance test in office. You will be asked to quickly consume a syrupy solution and wait an hour. They will then test your blood sugar levels. If your levels are higher than they should be, they will either do more testing or diagnose you with GD.
Women with gestational diabetes will have more prenatal screening, as well as at home testing and maintenance. They will need to monitor the mother’s glucose levels and the growth of the baby. You may have more ultrasounds and blood work. It is important that you speak to your healthcare team about how to maintain healthy blood sugar. It is a good idea to talk with a registered dietitian or a diabetes educator. They will be able to show you how to balance the food you eat to avoid blood sugar highs and lows. If your doctor approves, you may want to try some lite exercise to help burn off some excess sugar. In some cases, it is advised that the patient takes insulin or other medications.