Diabetes among pregnant women is pretty common: according to the International Diabetes Federation, "1 in 6 births was affected by gestational diabetes." It happens more often than anyone would like, but what exactly is this medical condition and how does diabetes during pregnancy develop? Should you be concerned if you're pregnant and you love sweets?
Allow us to answer your questions.
What is gestational diabetes?
If you're a pregnant woman who's not diabetic in the first place and you get it during pregnancy, then what you have is considered gestational diabetes. Simply put, you have too much glucose in your blood, and this is not good for you and the bun in your oven.
This condition happens when you have high blood sugar, which in turn triggers your body to produce more insulin. Although the insulin doesn't reach your little one, the glucose does. This glucose or blood sugar turns into fat and may make your baby bigger, which can lead to complications during childbirth.
It can also put your little tot at risk for diabetes and obesity in the future.
Symptoms of diabetes during pregnancy
Many of the signs that you may have gestational diabetes are similar to the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. This includes excessive thirst, irritability, frequent urination, fatigue, and skin issues. However, some women do not notice symptoms right away, as they mistake them for normal changes that happen during pregnancy.
As always, it's best to consult your doctor if there are unusual changes in your body.
Are you at risk for diabetes during pregnancy?
It's possible for some women to be more at risk for gestational diabetes. It has also been found that Asian women have a higher risk of developing this condition. It would be prudent of you to watch out for it if you have the following:
- a family history of diabetes
- a previous diagnosis of prediabetes
- an unhealthy lifestyle
- an unhealthy excess weight (obesity)
The screening test for gestational diabetes is called an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), which is usually done between your 24th to 28th week of pregnancy. If your doctor has determined that you are at risk for having it, you may have the OGTT at an earlier time, then have it again at 24 to 28 weeks when your first result was normal.
The screening involves a blood test in the morning after fasting for 8 to 10 hours, then drinking a glucose drink. After two hours, another blood test is taken to see your body's reaction to the glucose.
Effects of diabetes during pregnancy on your baby
Usually, gestational diabetes goes away on its own after a woman gives birth. However, this doesn't mean that you don't have to watch out for and manage it. It can cause serious complications to your pregnancy and may affect you and your baby.
There's a chance that you'll have a large baby due to the high levels of blood sugar in your body, which can also mean having a more challenging birth due to your baby's size. In addition, your child can also develop respiratory issues and diabetes. There's also a risk for preterm birth or worse, stillbirth.
As for you, having diabetes during pregnancy can increase your risk for high blood pressure or preeclampsia. It can also lead to a C-section especially if you have a big baby and if there are complications. You may also develop diabetes later on.
How to prevent gestational diabetes
Thankfully, there are simple ways to prevent these risk factors from developing into diabetes. As always, it's best to eat healthily and curb your sweets and carbohydrate intake. If you often feel hungry as some women do during pregnancy, try eating frequent small meals instead of having a lot in one go. This will make you feel satiated.
Those who have the means can also try consulting with a nutritionist-dietitian who can give you a meal plan that you can follow to make sure you're getting enough nutrients in your body for you and your little one.
Having a form of physical activity can also do wonders for your and your baby's well-being. There are a lot of mom-and-baby-safe activities like swimming, walking, prenatal yoga, and the like. But if you weren't physically active before pregnancy, make sure you consult with your doctor before trying anything new.
Read more about how you can keep gestational diabetes at bay.
Sleep more to prevent it
Here's something interesting that you may want to try. It turns out that pregnant ladies who do not get at least 6 hours of sleep at night have a higher chance of getting gestational diabetes. Moreover, not having proper shut-eye every night can also lead to a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes postpartum. Talk about a double whammy, right?
It's still unclear whether taking daytime naps to augment the lack of sleep at night would help. But one thing is for sure: Pregnant or not, you need adequate sleep anyway, so this is definitely worth a shot.
Consult with your gynaecologist
If you think you may be at risk for developing diabetes during pregnancy, discuss this with your gynaecologist. This way, you can monitor your health and prepare for other possible complications. Make sure to be open about your health history so your doctor can help you with having a safe pregnancy and delivery.
Aside from eating a healthy diet, consult your gynaecologist about the prenatal vitamins you can take, as well as maternal milk that has a low glycaemic index so you can be sure to consume the right nutrients for you and the baby.