Gestational Diabetes: For New and Seasoned Mothers

Whether this is your first baby or you are a seasoned mother, you may still be at risk of developing gestational diabetes. This condition affects the baby and the mother and can leave a lifelong impact.

Key takeaways:
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    Although this condition has no unique symptoms, it often presents the way type 2 diabetes mellitus would.
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    Gestational diabetes is a medical condition that pregnant women can prevent with lifestyle modifications.
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    It is essential to get screenings done when recommended to monitor the development of this condition.
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    There are two methods done for testing; however, if you are at higher risk, you may be asked to get the 3-hour glucose test initially.
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    Consume a diet high in fruits and vegetables and avoid those high in sugars.

The number of pregnancies affected is increasing yearly, and we must break this cycle and keep mothers and babies healthy. Understanding gestational diabetes can help prevent mothers from developing it and provide more favorable outcomes for babies and mothers.

The following article will explore the most important things you need to know about gestational diabetes.

Understanding gestational diabetes

According to the CDC, in the United States, 2% to 10% of pregnancies are affected by a diagnosis of gestational diabetes. If you have never been diagnosed with diabetes and then developed this condition during pregnancy, you now have "gestational diabetes."

The symptoms and development of the condition can mimic type 2 diabetes mellitus. However, this term is unique to pregnancy because it happens during pregnancy and, if managed well, will resolve when the baby is born.

Your body needs a hormone called insulin to create the energy that it requires to function. During pregnancy, it is natural for the mother to gain weight. However, sometimes the body does not respond appropriately to this rapid weight gain, creating insulin resistance.

Insulin plays a crucial role in how the body uses glucose. When it is not functioning correctly, the glucose may not get adequately absorbed and gets left to linger in the blood and cause damage.

If healthy lifestyle practices get adopted early in pregnancy, gestational diabetes can resolve once the baby is born. Understanding gestational diabetes is vital for the first time and seasoned mother's health.

Signs and symptoms

Usually, gestational diabetes is detected during a wellness check because it has no unique apparent symptoms. Since having gestational diabetes mimics typical diabetes, try to look for common signs and symptoms of having type 2 diabetes mellitus. These symptoms can be:

  • Increased thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Frequent Urination
  • Fatigue

Tips for mothers

Be sure to stop and think about possible other reasons you might be experiencing these symptoms. Think about things like:

  • Are you more thirsty than usual because you are dehydrated.
  • Are you taking a medication that has the side effect of dry mouth.
  • Is the fatigue you are experiencing more than a usual expectation during pregnancy.
  • Has your quality of sleep been affected by something.

Talk to your doctor about your concerns if you can't find a legitimate reason for your symptoms.

How is gestational diabetes tested?

Women are tested for gestational diabetes in the second trimester unless their health status puts them at a higher risk. This period is during the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy.

People considered at a higher risk for diabetes during pregnancy are typically overweight before pregnancy, have had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy, or have a family member with diabetes.

Glucose challenge test

Testing is usually done first by taking the glucose challenge test. In this test, you do not have to worry about not eating or drinking beforehand, and the test usually goes like this:

  1. You will drink a liquid that contains a high sugar level
  2. After you drink the liquid, you wait for one hour
  3. The lab technician will draw a small sample of your blood
  4. The doctor will examine your blood for levels of sugar

This test will help your healthcare provider determine how well your body responds to these higher blood sugar levels. If you have a higher level of sugar left in your bloodstream, it could mean your body may not be able to take in or absorb sugar properly.

If your blood sugar level is below 140 mg/dL, there is no concern for gestational diabetes. Once you step into a range of 140 mg/dL to 190mg/dL, the doctor will most likely ask you to move to the next testing steps.

The 3-hour glucose tolerance test

For this test, you will need to be fasting for about 8 hours before the test. Fasting means nothing to eat or drink during those 8 hours. You can expect the testing to go like this:

  1. A lab technician will take a blood sample as a baseline
  2. You will then drink a liquid with glucose
  3. The lab technician will draw your blood every hour for 2 to 3 hours
  4. The doctor will examine your blood for levels of sugar

If you get a reading of high blood sugar levels during two or more tests, then you may have gestational diabetes.

In some situations, such as when you are already at a higher risk for gestational diabetes, the doctor will have you go directly to the 3-hour glucose test. Either way, a glucose screening is essential and should be included during wellness checks.

Tips for mothers: Have someone drive you to and from your appointment for this test, especially if you tend to get queasy with extra sugary substances.

Wear loose-fitting clothing and avoid long sleeves so the lab technician has no issues getting to your veins.

Make sure to drink plenty of fluids the day before the test helps to keep you hydrated for the lab draw.

The effects on the mother and baby

Having gestational diabetes can be a condition that leads to other health problems for the mother as well as the child. The mother can experience high blood pressure leading to preeclampsia and potentially face a more extended diagnosis of diabetes even after childbirth.

The baby could be born with excessive birth weight, preterm birth, immature lungs leading to respiratory issues, or at greater risk for developing diabetes later in life. Gestational diabetes that is left untreated may result in the baby not surviving pregnancy or childbirth.

Having regular checkups with an obstetrician is critical for the mother and baby. While many of these potential health problems can sound scary, gestational diabetes is a condition that can be prevented or managed well if caught early in the disease process.

Prevention is key

If you are already at a higher risk for developing gestational diabetes, be careful with any rapid weight gain, and make sure that you eat a balanced diet. Avoid eating carbohydrates as these are high in sugar and will cause an increase in blood glucose.

Exercise coupled with diet is a powerful duo in preventing this condition. Discuss with your doctor safe exercises to engage in while you are pregnant. Lifestyle modifications are essential elements to implement early in the mother's pregnancy.

Tips for mothers: It is essential to discuss with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine, especially when you are in a high-risk pregnancy. Light walking is a great start and can benefit you physically and emotionally. Being outdoors can help to relieve stress and promotes a healthy mentality.

Gestational diabetes diet

Once diagnosed with gestational diabetes; you must be mindful of your diet. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables are both important sources of nutrients. Keep the amount you eat of lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains to a moderate level.

Pregnant women should avoid foods that have high sugar content. These are things like sodas, candy, fruit juices, and desserts. If you have a sweet tooth and must indulge in desserts, it is critical to watch your portion sizes. The smaller, the better.

Having a diagnosis of gestational diabetes can be scary if you are not knowledgeable about the steps you need to take to prevent or reverse it. However, if you have the necessary knowledge about this condition, then you have the power to make positive changes.

The bottom line is that when you are pregnant, you must eat healthy, exercise as tolerated, and participate in discussions with your gynecologist during your well-checks.