Gestational Diabetes

Author: Shannon Miller

I had just entered my 3rd trimester when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, which develops when hormones during pregnancy cause insulin resistance in the latter part of pregnancy.

A woman’s pancreas has to secrete 2-3 times more insulin than in the pre-pregnancy state.  If the woman’s pancreas doesn’t do this, she develops elevated blood sugar during pregnancy.  Women are tested for gestational diabetes between weeks 24 and 35 of pregnancy, which is the glucose test that you hear about.

Learning that I had developed gestational diabetes was tough to hear; I felt like I had failed as a mother.  But after doing some research and talking with my doctor, I realized that of course this was not the case.  Gestational diabetes is not an uncommon medical issue and it is one that can be controlled fairly easily.  We just have to empower ourselves with the knowledge of how to handle it best.

You may be at risk for gestational diabetes if:

  • you have a family history of diabetes,
  • are overweight,
  • had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • or are taking insulin resistant medication.

In this case, you may benefit from early screening. If you are diagnosed, it is important to listen to your physician and dietician to know exactly what your specific needs are for the health of yourself and your baby. 

  • For the mother, gestational diabetes presents and increased risk of Type 2 diabetes later in life. 
  • For the baby, uncontrolled blood sugar can cause macrosomia (causing the baby to get too big).  Big babies are more difficult to deliver and can lead to the necessity of a cesarean.

Typically, you want to keep your carbohydrate intake consistent throughout the day.  You’ll be given a meal plan or restricted diet and asked to get regular physical exercise each day. Exercise has many benefits during pregnancy.  Specific benefits for the condition of gestational diabetes are that exercise helps to control blood glucose levels and prevents excess weight gain.

Gestational diabetes is certainly not anything that an expectant mother wants to deal with, but remember that control is not completely lost.  Keep an open dialogue with your doctor and dietician – don’t be afraid to call with questions or concerns.

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