Here are some key facts from the March of Dimes website:
- Gestational diabetes occurs when pregnancy hormones or other factors interfere with the body’s ability to use its insulin. An affected woman usually has no symptoms. This form of diabetes generally develops during the second half of pregnancy and goes away after delivery.
Anyone is at risk, however it seems to affect these groups more often:
- Gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- 30 years old or older
- Overweight and/or excessive weight gain during pregnancy
- A very large (more than 9½ pounds) or stillborn baby in a previous pregnancy
- One or more family members with diabetes
- African-American, Native American, Asian, Hispanic or Pacific Island ancestry
How are you tested for gestational diabetes?
- Most women are screened for gestational diabetes between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy.
- The test involves drinking a liquid that contains 50 grams of glucose (a form of sugar). One hour later, the health care provider takes a blood sample. The sample is sent to the lab to measure the amount of glucose in the blood.
- If the screening test shows that a woman has high levels of glucose in her blood, she needs to take a similar, though longer, test called the glucose tolerance test. It involves drawing blood samples while fasting and at 1, 2 and 3 hours after drinking 100 grams of glucose.
Does this pose any risks for the baby? Unfortunately, yes.
- Birth defects: Women with pregestational diabetes are 3 to 4 times more likely than nondiabetic women to have babies with serious birth defects. These include heart defects; neural tube defects (NTDs) (birth defects of the brain or spinal cord); oral clefts; and kidney, gastrointestinal and limb defects. However, diabetic women with good blood-sugar control before and during conception have a similar risk of birth defects as women without diabetes.
- Miscarriage: High blood-sugar levels around the time of conception may increase the risk of miscarriage.
- Premature birth (before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy): Premature babies are at increased risk for health problems in the newborn period as well as lasting disabilities.
- Macrosomia: Women with poorly controlled diabetes are at increased risk for having a very large baby (10 pounds or more). This is called macrosomia.These babies grow so large because some of the extra sugar in the mother’s blood crosses the placenta and goes to the fetus. The fetus then produces extra insulin, which helps it process the sugar and store it as fat. The fat tends to accumulate around the shoulders and trunk, sometimes making these babies difficult to deliver vaginally and putting them at risk for injuries during birth.
So what can I (or you) do?
- Pregnant women with gestational diabetes should monitor their blood-sugar levels several times a day.
- You should follow a diet designed by a dietician especially for you. (your provider should refer you to one)
- EXERCISE! It can help control diabetes by prompting the body to use insulin more efficiently. However, pregnant women with diabetes must always get the ok from their health care provider before starting an exercise program.
- Some women with gestational diabetes are unable to control their blood-sugar levels with diet and exercise. These women are treated with insulin or an oral diabetes medication (glyburide) for the remainder of the pregnancy.
So I am hopeful that my next test comes back okay, but in the meantime I will do what I can to keep it under control. The great news is that gestational diabetes usually goes away after delivery.
Ok, your turn! Anyone else experience gestational diabetes and care to share your experience?