Gestational diabetes is diabetes that develops and is first diagnosed during pregnancy. It can cause high blood sugar affecting your pregnancy and your health. It affects 2%-10% of pregnancies and usually disappears after childbirth. Here are the causes and ways to manage gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes occurs when your body can’t make enough insulin during your pregnancy. It makes it difficult for your body to use glucose (sugar) properly for energy, so it says in your blood causing your blood sugar levels to rise.
During pregnancy all the changes your body goes through so many changes such as weight gain and hormonal changes which can affect your cells causing them to produce less insulin. This is a condition called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance increases your body’s need for insulin. All pregnant women have some insulin resistance during pregnancy. The difference between those who develop gestational diabetes and those who don’t is those who do usually have some insulin resistance before pregnancy which becomes compounded during pregnancy.
Symptoms and risk factors
Gestational diabetes does not have symptoms. Most cases are discovered when your blood sugar levels are tested during screening. The test is usually done 24-28 weeks into pregnancy. You are at a higher risk for gestational diabetes if you:
- Previously had a baby who weighed 4.5 kg (101lb) at birth
- Had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy
- Have a family history of diabetes in parents, siblings
- Have South Asian, Black, African-Caribbean, Middle Eastern, or Native American origins
- Have medical complications like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease
Treatment and management
The good news is gestational diabetes is easily controlled through:
- Eating healthy: follow a healthy diet plan where you eat healthy foods in the right amounts
- Exercising and getting active: regular physical activity that’s moderately intense lowers blood sugar and makes you more sensitive to insulin so your body won’t need to produce as much.
- Check your blood sugar: regularly check your blood sugar levels to make sure you stay in a healthy range
- Taking medication including insulin if necessary: this is when the other measures are not enough to manage your blood sugar
Diet is key to managing gestational diabetes. Here are some guidelines:
- Avoid sugary snacks like cookies, candy, and ice cream. Go for natural sugars like fruits and raisins.
- Add vegetables and whole grains to your diet.
- Add fibre to your diet through foods like whole-grain bread, cereals, pasta, brown or wild rice, oatmeal, and fruits and vegetables.
- Eat a variety of foods to make sure you get enough fruits and minerals.
- Consider taking supplements to cover all your bases.
- Watch your portion sizes.
Your blood sugar levels usually return to their usual levels after delivery, but you are at a higher risk of later developing type 2 diabetes and having gestational diabetes in your next pregnancy.
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