Gestational diabetes is a temporary type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association, between 2 and 5 percent of women develop diabetes during pregnancy — but between 7 and 9 percent of women acquire gestational diabetes, if they’re predisposed to it. Gestational diabetes is associated with certain known risk factors. Although there’s no sure-fire way to prevent diabetes during pregnancy, there are simple steps you can take to reduce your risks.
Pregnancy can affect how much insulin your body produces, according to the APA. If you don’t produce enough insulin, your body cannot process sugars efficiently, leading to high glucose levels in your blood. Unlike type 1 and type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes generally resolves after you’re no longer pregnant. Symptoms of gestational diabetes include frequent urination, extreme thirst, tiredness, nausea, blurry vision and repeated bladder, vaginal and skin infections. Diagnostic testing can measure the amount of sugar in your blood. According to MayoClinic.com, if you’re moderately at risk for gestational diabetes, your doctor will usually recommend a glucose challenge test between the 24th and 28th weeks of your pregnancy, or sometimes even sooner if you’re deemed to be more “at risk.”
What’s Your Risk?
Any expecting mother can get gestational diabetes, but certain factors put you more at risk. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, gestational diabetes is more likely to occur in women over the age of 25, who are overweight, who have a family history of gestational diabetes or who have polycystic ovary syndrome. Your past history can also reveal if you’re more likely to get gestational diabetes. Women who’ve experienced it during a previous pregnancy or who had complications during pregnancy — such as giving birth to a very large baby or a stillborn child — are more at risk. Women of Asian, Native American, Hispanic, African American and Pacific Islander descent are also more likely to experience gestational diabetes.
Diabetes during pregnancy can affect your health, putting you at risk for preeclampsia — high blood pressure — which may threaten your life, as well as the life of your unborn child. Gestational diabetes also puts your baby at risk as well. According to MayoClinic.com, complications she may experience may include respiratory distress after birth, low blood sugar, jaundice and developmental delays. Sometimes gestational diabetes causes a condition called macrosomia, in which makes your baby grow too large. This puts her at risk for injury during childbirth as she passes through the birth canal — in certain cases a C-section may be necessary. Children of mothers who had gestational diabetes are more likely to have weight problems and develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
If you develop gestational diabetes, your doctor will monitor you and your unborn child carefully during your pregnancy. You’ll be required to test your blood glucose levels daily. Insulin therapy may be necessary if the condition can’t be managed through a proper diet and exercise. According to the AOCG, up to 50 percent of expecting mothers who have gestational diabetes will also eventually develop type 2 diabetes, underscoring the need for your doctor to monitor your condition even after your baby is born.
Some risk factors, such as family history and descent, may be beyond your control. But you can take your health in your hands before you get pregnant to reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Doctors don’t recommend you lose weight once you’re expecting, so if you’re overweight, shed those pounds before you get pregnant. Eat a nutritious, low-fat, low-calorie diet rich in fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Get a half-hour of exercise every day. MayoClinic.com suggests walking, bicycling and swimming laps.