Gestational diabetes is something that only happens during pregnancy. It doesn’t mean you will have diabetes after pregnancy, but you are more likely to develop it. This condition can also affect your baby.
Knowing everything possible is important. While your doctor will try to explain everything, it’s normal to start researching it online for yourself. The internet is full of misinformation and scary stories from others who have suffered from it.
Here is everything that you could need to know about gestational diabetes and what it means for you and your baby. We’ll share some of the more serious side effects but will also make sure you know what you can do to prevent and treat it.
Gestational Diabetes Doesn’t Mean You Have Diabetes
As mentioned, gestational diabetes only develops during pregnancy. After pregnancy, your health can return to normal. It certainly doesn’t mean that you have diabetes normally.
Diabetes is a condition that affects your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. Your body naturally needs glucose for energy, but getting too much can put your health at severe risk. The amount of insulin needed to restore your blood sugar levels is higher as you develop diabetes, which can affect your heart health.
In pregnancy, gestational diabetes affects both you and your baby. It’s usually diagnosed in later stages of pregnancy, but if you have diabetes before pregnancy, you may be diagnosed with it earlier. You will need to treat gestational diabetes straight away to protect your baby. Your doctor will help you do this.
Those who are considering pregnancy with diabetes should consult their doctor first. It’s important to manage your diabetes for your baby’s health as well as your own, and this starts before you even know you’re pregnant.
Gestational Diabetes Is Due to Lack of Insulin
During pregnancy, your hormones are all over the place. Your body doesn’t quite work as it did before pregnancy, and this can affect the amount of insulin your body makes. Insulin is necessary to help control your blood sugar levels. When you don’t have enough insulin, your glucose levels will be higher than normal, but your body can’t use that glucose effectively for your energy.
If your body’s insulin creation reduces, it is possible that you will end up with gestational diabetes. You will get many of the same signs as normal diabetes, which is something we’ll look into soon.
Insulin resistance later on in your pregnancy is completely normal. All pregnant women suffer from it, but not pregnant women will see the dangerous levels. Your weight can affect the amount of insulin resistance you see, so those who are overweight during their pregnancy are more at risk of developing severe insulin resistance.
Contributing Factors Leading to Gestational Diabetes
You will have some insulin resistance later in pregnancy, but that doesn’t mean you will develop gestational diabetes. There are some women who will be watched more frequently than others. Midwives and doctors will want to make sure you remain healthy throughout pregnancy to support your growing baby.
There are certain types of women who will be watched more closely than others. Obesity is a factor, so you will instantly be watched. Your doctor will also want to keep an eye on you if you have uncontrolled diabetes and pre-diabetes. If you already have controlled diabetes, you will still be watched, but not as closely if your diabetes isn’t controlled.
If you had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, you would more likely develop it in a subsequent pregnancy. Your doctor will want to know about your pregnancy history, especially if you changed doctor between pregnancies. Those with close blood family members with Type II diabetes will also be watched, as it is a warning sign.
Finally, if you have polycystic ovary syndrome, known as PCOS, you will be at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes. Your doctor will watch your health closely, and you may have to go through extra blood work tests.
If you’re considered a high risk, your doctor may order a gestational diabetes test from Week 24 gestation. This is to make sure you get the right care straight away. If you’re not considered high risk, your doctor may just want to watch out for symptoms and order tests if necessary. This decision can also depend on your health insurance.
Most tests are completed between Weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy. Some doctors can test earlier if you are at a much higher risk.
You Can Decrease Your Chances of Developing It
The good news is there are things you can do before and during pregnancy to lower your chances of developing gestational diabetes.
The first is to lose weight. If you’re trying to conceive and are overweight, you’ll want to consider a diet plan to help reduce your weight. This will help to balance hormones.
It’s worth talking to your doctor about a healthy diet plan while you are pregnant. While pregnancy isn’t a time to lose weight, your doctor will help to make sure you follow a diet that is sustainable and good for your baby. This helps to reduce the amount of weight you gain naturally and offer all the nutrients to your baby needed.
Before you get pregnant, you should also consider increasing the amount of exercise you do. You want to do at least 150 minutes per week to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Exercise helps to build muscle and lose weight, so you can control the amount of glucose in your body and use it up as energy.
It is possible to exercise during your pregnancy. There will be some types of exercise that you’ll want to avoid to protect your baby and due to your shift in gravity. However, you will find that most doctors recommend you to remain active during pregnancy. Of course, you will need to listen to your body. Some women suffer from pain in their joints and ligaments due to pregnancy symptoms, which can limit the amount you move around.
Gestational Diabetes Symptoms: Knowing the Signs
There are times that you won’t be considered a risk, but that doesn’t mean you won’t develop gestational diabetes. It’s important to make sure you know the symptoms of the condition to get treatment as soon as possible.
Excessive thirst is one of the most common symptoms. You’ll not just feel the need to drink more water than normal, but your thirst won’t be quenched afterward. You can end up drinking 2-4 liters of water a day and still not feel any different.
Of course, this excessive drinking will bring on increased urination. However, even if you don’t drink much more than normal, you can find yourself urinating more frequently. The color of your urine can also be much darker than normal, as your kidneys can’t work as effectively as they should.
At the same time, you can feel hungrier than normal. Your body isn’t using the energy effectively, losing more of it throughout the day. You don’t feel the sustained hunger levels that come with a healthy and balanced diet.
Your vision can be affected due to gestational diabetes. However, this is something that can happen due to a change in your pregnancy hormones. In most cases, the vision is blurred when considering gestational diabetes.
Getting Diagnosed with the Condition
Your doctor will usually use a urine test for initial signs. Your doctor will want to see the levels of sugar and protein in your urine. These tests are carried out at every visit and will ensure you have a healthy home for your baby.
If there is anything concerning, your doctor will find out about other symptoms. Blood tests are used for testing for gestational diabetes, and you will usually go through what is known as a screening glucose challenge test first of all.
The test involves drinking a sugary beverage and a blood test. There is no fasting involved, and it is just to see the results to determine if you are showing some of the earlier signs. Just because you show no signs doesn’t mean you’re not suffering from the condition. Your doctor may order the oral glucose test.
The oral test is usually performed in the morning, as it involves an 8-hour fast. You can’t even have a drink, except for water. Your blood sugar levels will be checked after the fasting period, and then your blood sugar levels will be checked an hour, two hours, and then three hours later. The test is a good way to see if you do have earlier stages of gestational diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes and Your Baby
Just because you’ve been diagnosed with the condition doesn’t mean you are instantly putting your baby’s life at risk. However, if you have high glucose levels, your baby likely will too. It’s important to keep your condition under control to help keep your baby’s condition under control. We’ll discuss how later.
Untreated gestational diabetes can cause initial and future problems for your baby. Your baby is more likely to be larger than average, which is a condition known as macrosomia. The delivery will be much harder, and there are far more risks during delivery for both you and your baby.
Your baby is more likely to suffer from low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) straight after birth. This can also lead to a risk of your baby having diabetes in life.
There are also risks of breathing problems and an increased risk of death. One of the most common issues is jaundice. This is when the skin and white parts of the eyes are yellow and is due to complications within the liver. In most cases, jaundice disappears on its own. Sunlight and some special UV lights may be needed to help, and breastfeeding jaundice babies are highly encouraged.
There are tests performed during pregnancy to determine if your baby is being affected by your gestational diabetes. Your doctor will count the kicks to check for movement and encourage you to do the same. This is something to do anyway, as a decrease in the movement should never happen (even in later stages of pregnancy).
Your doctor may place his hand on your abdomen to check the heart rate when your baby is active. This is known as the non-stress test.
The most common way to check on developments is through ultrasounds. You will likely have at least one extra ultrasound in later stages of pregnancy but may need more depending on the severity of your gestational diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes and You
It’s not just your baby that is affected by gestational diabetes. You can also be affected, and one of the ways is increasing your risk of other pregnancy complications.
Those with gestational diabetes will always be watched for preeclampsia, which is an extremely serious condition. It can be noted through the swelling in the hands, feet, and face, as well as high protein levels in the urine. You may need to go through an early delivery, as this condition isn’t treated in any other way.
You are also at risk of needing a c-section for the delivery of your baby. The size of your baby may be too large to push out naturally safely, so your doctor will want to control as many risks as possible. This will mean a longer recovery time afterward.
Depression—both normal and postnatal—is also common. Your diabetes will make you tired, and you can be extremely anxious. These problems affect your mental health. It’s important to discuss your mental health with your doctor if you feel any symptoms of depression. Don’t be ashamed of it, as you need to seek help to protect you and your baby.
Finally, you are at a higher risk of developing diabetes later in life. You’ll need to keep your diet healthy to maintain healthier insulin and glucose levels within your body. If you become pregnant again, you are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes again.
Treating Gestational Diabetes
The good news is the treatment of gestational diabetes is possible. Your doctor will help you with this and will regularly check your blood glucose level to keep you and baby safe.
A healthy diet and exercise plan will often be prescribed. Your doctor will want you to keep your sugar intake down and increase the healthy nutritious food intake. By focusing on wholesome food and fewer refined sugars, you can help prevent food metabolizing as glucose and make sure the body doesn’t need to release as much insulin in the body.
Before taking up any diet or exercise, discuss them with your doctor. Your doctor will want to make sure your baby gets plenty of nutrients, and you’re not putting your body under too much strain. Some of the most commonly recommended exercises include swimming, pool aerobics, and walking.
In some cases, you will need to take insulin shots. These will help to release more insulin into the body to manage your glucose levels. Your doctor will do this if your diabetes levels are extremely high or if you’re struggling to manage it.
Final Notes About Gestational Diabetes
Don’t be overly worried about your gestational diabetes. It is easy to become overly anxious, but this just contributes to poor mental health. Focus on your treatment plan with your doctor and discuss any worries or fears that you have. There are support groups around, and your doctor will help you find them.
Your doctor is there to help check on your levels throughout your pregnancy. If you are worried about symptoms of subsequent conditions, he will check those levels for you too. Meanwhile, he will check on the health of your baby to make sure your pregnancy remains on track, and you can avoid some of the more serious side effects from developing gestational diabetes.