(Natural News) Gestational diabetes refers to the condition wherein a pregnant woman’s body cannot produce or respond to insulin, resulting in a spike in blood sugar levels. Without proper care, it may have detrimental effects not only on the mother but also the baby.
What is the cause of gestational diabetes?
According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, around two to 10 percent of expectant mothers in the US develop gestational diabetes. The cause of this condition is deeply linked to the changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy.
Research suggests that gestational diabetes stems from hormonal changes. While pregnant, the placenta produces large amounts of hormones. The body strives to adapt, but the surge of hormones causes it to use insulin less effectively. The body then develops insulin resistance.
Most pregnant women develop insulin resistance at the final months of their pregnancy. Between 24 and 28 weeks, most women test for gestational diabetes. If it comes out positive, healthcare providers will prescribe measures to properly manage their blood sugar levels.
There are women who are already prone to developing gestational diabetes even before pregnancy. Here are some things that can increase the risk of developing this condition:
- Age (25 years old and above)
- History of gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- Being overweight
- Having a family member with Type 2 diabetes
- Race (African-Americans, American-Indians, Hispanics, Alaska Natives, or Pacific Islanders)
The severity of symptoms will vary for each pregnant woman. It is possible that one woman does not notice the signs until late into her pregnancy. Here are some symptoms to watch out for:
- Feeling nauseous
- Extreme thirst
- Frequent urination
- Sugar in the urine
- Frequent bladder, vaginal, or skin infections
- Blurred vision
Being aware of these symptoms can help an expecting mother identify earlier on if she has gestational diabetes.
Risks for mother and baby
Gestational diabetes usually disappears after giving birth. However, if blood glucose levels are not managed properly, this may result in increased risks for more serious conditions later.
For the mother, she may potentially develop the following:
- High blood pressure and preeclampsia (a potentially life-threatening complication during pregnancy)
- Type 2 diabetes in the future
Increased risks for the baby include:
- Higher birth weight
- Premature birth
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Type 2 diabetes in the future
Prevention and treatment
Taking preventive measures for gestational diabetes can decrease the chances of developing it, such as:
- Talking to a healthcare professional. It is best to consult first with a physician before attempting to conceive or if in the first trimester of pregnancy. This is crucial because the physician can conduct tests and a background check to determine the likelihood of a woman developing gestational diabetes. If there is a high risk, the woman would be able to prepare for it.
- Eating healthy foods. Aside from maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, this also prepares a woman for the physical and mental strains of pregnancy and childbirth.
- Developing an active lifestyle. This is complementary to eating healthy foods. Exercise and movement in general not only boosts physical health, but mental health as well.
- Losing weight before pregnancy. One of the risk factors for gestational diabetes is being overweight. In order to reduce the risks, consider losing a few pounds.
If a mother develops gestational diabetes in the middle of her pregnancy, her physician may recommend ways to help manage the condition.
- Regular blood sugar check-up. It is important to schedule days for blood sugar tests. This helps identify earlier on if there are any significant changes and if there are any improvements.
- Eating healthy foods at the right time. Make sure to follow the diets and mealtimes set by the physician or dietitian. (Related: Herbs for common pregnancy symptoms: Gestational diabetes.)
- Moderate-intensity exercise. This kind of exercise helps lower blood sugar and increases insulin sensitivity. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional first on exercises that are specifically recommended for pregnant women.
- Monitoring the baby. Regular check-ups must be scheduled to ensure that the baby is growing healthily and on time.
Pregnancy is a period of many adjustments, and it can be difficult. Actively pursuing a healthier lifestyle can ensure a better life for the mother and her child.