Gestational diabetes occurs in about 2-9% of pregnancies. Certain risk factors may increase your risk of gestational diabetes such as a family history of diabetes, having prediabetes, or PCOS.
Unfortunately, gestational diabetes symptoms may be difficult to detect because they can also be symptoms of pregnancy such as:
Thirstier than usual
Because of this, the best way to diagnose gestational diabetes is to screen for it around 24-28 weeks of pregnancy.
Screening For GD
Screening for gestational diabetes is important because it has been linked to birth defects and can have a negative impact on the baby’s growth, development, and metabolic health.
Screening is done in the second trimester with a one-hour test. If it is determined that during the one-hour glucose test your blood sugar was elevated, you will be scheduled for a three-hour glucose test.
Some women decide against using the Glucola drink for the one-hour test. For alternative methods of screening for GD, ask the midwives during your prenatal appointment.
The tests for gestational diabetes are not pass-or-fail tests. They are simply tests to measure how well the mother’s pancreas and placenta are working together. If the results indicate an elevated blood sugar level and it is determined you have gestational diabetes, you will likely need to change your lifestyle until the end of pregnancy to keep your blood sugar under control.
Gestational diabetes happens in women of all types and does not discriminate. You did not fail your baby, your body is just having a hard time keeping up with the amount of insulin it needs to produce to support the pregnancy.
To keep your blood sugar under control, you will need to change your diet to one that is high in protein, quality fats, and fiber, but low in carbs. Try to increase your vitamin D and magnesium intake as these are thought to help maintain a lower blood sugar. Natural sources of vitamins and minerals are best since they are easier for the body to absorb. Ask your midwife if supplementation is recommended.
Drink plenty of water and rest well. Getting a good night’s sleep can help your body regulate blood sugar levels. Eight hours of sleep is the gold standard. Exercising is another tool you can use to control blood sugar levels, even if it’s just a walk through the park.
Monitoring Blood Sugars
Going forward, you will need to test your blood sugar several times a day. A midwife can explain the proper steps and care to using a glucose monitor and at what times during the day you should test.
It’s important to keep your levels low because your blood goes directly to the baby. If you have high blood sugar, so will your baby. Consistent levels of high blood sugar can lead to a bigger baby, specifically in the shoulders, and may make vaginal delivery more difficult.
As your pregnancy progresses, it may become harder to maintain controlled blood sugar levels. You will need to transfer care to an OBGYN if it becomes too difficult to regulate or if you require the use of insulin.
After delivery, your blood sugar levels should quickly return to normal. Your baby will need to be monitored after birth, especially if they are underweight or overweight until breastfeeding has been established. If you have successfully kept your blood sugar controlled, then your baby should be just fine.
Women who have had gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of developing it again in future pregnancies, and for developing type 2 diabetes. You can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes by staying active, eating nutritious food, and breastfeeding.
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