Gestational Diabetes. You got it? You bummed about it? I'm sorry. Let's see what we can learn to help turn this around for you.
We can't make it totally better, but may be with a little more information it won't seem as bad as first finding out. I remember finding out that I had it. Didn't seem fair to have to deal with that on top of everything else. Also I found out on a Friday and didn't get in to be educated on the whole thing until a week later. During that time in between there was a furious amount of googling, fear that anything consumed would cause damage, and general bummed outed-ness about the whole thing.
You shouldn't have to go through such things. That is why we are going to run through some important facts about Gestational Diabetes and what it means for you through this pregnancy. Not all of the things are going to be bad. That seems hard to believe, but this could be good in some ways.
15 Gestational Diabetes Is...
...when a pregnant woman has high blood glucose levels during pregnancy. Though people don't know exactly what the cause is there are theories. One theory is that the hormones that are stirred up during pregnancy serve to block the insulin in the body from being processed. This insulin resistance makes the body of the pregnant woman unable to properly use the insulin to regulate blood sugar. Basically the insulin in a woman's body is insufficient for the needs it has during pregnancy. The deficiency causes glucose (or the blood sugar) to rise. If left unchecked this can be dangerous to the mom and the unborn baby. The amount of insulin that may be required to regulate things in a pregnant mom is up to three times the normal required amount. When the insulin doesn't properly change the blood sugar with insulin, it can't change the glucose to energy.
14 Affects The Baby by...
...giving the baby high glucose levels. The fact is that gestational diabetes comes on late in pregnancy, so birth defects are not caused by it. By the time Gestational diabetes pops in the baby is already pretty well formed.
The high glucose levels in the baby make it's pancreas have to work harder to produce insulin. The extra energy from that process is not used and therefore stored as fat.
So gestational diabetes is making that baby work harder and it's making him/her put on weight while doing it? Now that's not fair at all. No wonder nobody likes you gestational diabetes.
Not only that, but this extra weight can cause additional problems for the baby. During birth if the baby is too large it can cause a more difficult birth. That sounds like a "mom" problem instead of a "baby" problem until you realize that some babies have damage to their shoulders. This occurs from the maneuvering required to get the baby out.
13 The Risks Are...
...being aged 25 or older. If you have a closer relative that has gestational diabetes then you have another strike against you. Closer relative would mean mother, father, brothers, sister, or grandparent. Being overweight is a risk factor also. BMI is what they use to determine overweight. They say 30 or higher. If you have the condition PCOS there is a chance of you developing Gestational Diabetes. A history with glucose intolerance will add another check on the list. Previous pregnancies with gestational diabetes will up your chances for the next one. If you had a big baby last time, you may also be a candidate. Certain medications can up your chances. Those would be some antipsychotics, betablockers, and glucocorticoids. If you are African American, Native American, Asian American, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander I have some news. You are also at a higher risk.
12 The Symptoms Are...
...usually undetectable. That is why the doctor runs a test on everyone between 24 to 28 weeks pregnant. If there are a lot of warning signs that are listed above than they may run this test earlier to make sure that they catch it before any negative side effects are experienced. Gotta love when your caregivers are proactive.
I can attest to that lack of symptoms. With my first pregnancy I passed the glucose test with flying colors. With my second pregnancy, unfortunately that was not the case. There was no difference in the pregnancies. I will admit that the second pregnancy saw me up a couple (forty pounds) in weight. It happens. I guess what I'm saying is I can attest to both the weight being a risk factor and the lack of symptoms. I went into the second pregnancy very confident that there would be no problem.
11 The Test Consists of...
...drinking a sweet drink and then waiting an hour. After the hour is up they take your blood glucose level. They will usually do a blood draw to get that info. If you pass this then you are done, you do not have Gestational Diabetes. If you fail this one you will likely get to take a three hour test. This means that you go drink that drink again. This time they take your blood sugar once every hour for three hours. If you don't pass that, then you do have it.
The most common thing women discuss about this test is the taste of the drink. Many say that it is so sweet it makes them ill. Some say that it tastes like melted orange popsicles. Some say that they just chugged it so they could avoid the taste. Still some others say that they enjoyed the taste. Ok, the last one is a very small number of women.
10 The Treatment Consists of...
...adjusting diet and increasing exercise. Fingers crossed this will do the trick to get your through. The diet is going to be made of more lean proteins, whole grains, and vegetables that have a slow release of sugar.
Not to scare you, but there is a small percent of women that are unable to control their diabetes with food and exercise changes alone. The next step is to take medication to help control their blood sugar.
Insulin injections are the most common step. I know, I know- I said not to scare you. This sounds scary. The thing to remember is that only 15 percent of women with gestational diabetes are unable to control it with diet and exercise alone. You could require up to 3 injections a day to even out blood sugar.
When you receive your diagnoses you will need to begin pricking your finger after each meal and checking your numbers. This will tell you if you should adjust what you are eating, and if you are using insulin this will help you determine amounts for that.
9 Affects My Pregnancy by...
...limiting the foods you eat. Sometimes we think of pregnancy as an excuse to eat everything in sight. Life is a buffet and your pregnancy punched your ticket. This will not be case for you. If you monitor your blood sugar and actively take the steps described by your doctor, then you should get through this with a successful pregnancy and a happy healthy baby.
There are some complications that are more common in women that have gestational diabetes. That will be things that your doctor will be checking on. You may be more likely to have preterm labor. Babies born early are obviously at risk since they didn't get all the time cooking that many do. High blood pressure or preeclampsia are things that are more likely complications. What can happen when you have either of these problems? Well, preterm labor can occur.
8 Gestational Diabetes Will Make Me...
...angry sometimes. Sad sometimes. You may feel a little like you were robbed of an experience that you had all planned out. There are days you will be exhausted as any other pregnant woman is, and yet you will need to get yourself up and do that walk to keep your exercise in and make sure your numbers are good.
There are days you will be so frustrated. After doing everything exactly right, you will find that your numbers are still not in the range they should be. You will think this fair and you may find yourself thinking "what is the point? If either way I end up with bad numbers, why do I even try?" This is the point where you should lean on some friends or your partner. They can remind you of all the reasons that you are doing. They can remind you how fantastic you are doing. They can remind you that you are going to be so proud of yourself when you are successfully through this pregnancy.
7 When Should You Call The Doctor?
If you are suffering from gestational diabetes and experience excessive thirst you should contact your doctor. Along with that if you are peeing more than usual, you want to check with your doctor. Feeling really tired is cause for concern. That may be hard to judge as you may have been in a fog since this pregnancy started. If you feel even more tired than you have been feeling, then call the doctor. If you have gotten out of the morning sickness phase and all the sudden find yourself nauseous again, call your doctor. Last but not least, if you have blurred vision- you need to call your doctor and let them know about this immediately. These are all signs that your levels may not be maintaining at the proper levels. Tests will need to be performed to make sure that baby and you are still coming through the pregnancy healthy.
6 After Giving Birth ...
...you will not be out of the woods yet. The chances of having Type 2 Diabetes in the future go up. This means that using some of the ways you learned of eating and exercising during your pregnancy will help you to remain healthy afterwards. You may be tempted in the weeks after to eat everything in sight that you missed while pregnant. That is probably a bad idea, though I understand why that would be tempting. If you reach your ideal weight after having the baby the chances of developing type 2 Diabetes are one in four. To clarify, this is a risk as you get older. This is not something that typically happens right after birth. As soon as I gave birth my blood sugars went back to normal. There may be a period of a week where your doctor requests that you continue to take your blood sugars in order remain certain that you are good to go.
5 Does It Mean No Carbs?
This was the main question I had when I found out I had this. If you love carbs like I do, this may be causing you some distress. Here is some good news: No you do not have to give up all carbs. In fact most dissuade you from this. You should however aim for healthy carbs. Carbs that have a lower glycemic index value. This results in less blood sugar fluctuations after eating these foods. That's good for you and this is something good for you even if you aren't diabetic. You can maintain and predict better how you will be after eating. You will want to aim for about 25 carbs per meal. This will help keep balanced. Primarily you want to have meat and veggies. Shouldn't we all have more of that?
4 Is There Any Good News?
Well, the good news is that you may find yourself coming out of this pregnancy with much less excess weight then you would have. I can't promise this to be the case as of course there are many factors. For example with my first pregnancy with no Gestational Diabetes I put on 50 pounds. With the second pregnancy I put on about 15 pounds. I was down to my pre-baby weight in a month. Now granted, as previously mentioned I was already overweight. The other piece of good news is that you have learned some ways to eat differently and achieve good results. You have hopefully gained some confidence in your willpower by completing this pregnancy in good form. You have learned how you feel better when you make some different decisions in food. You may find that you are riding the high of success. Keep riding that wave.
3 Can Gestational Diabetes Be Prevented?
There are some steps you can take to lower your chance of getting Gestational Diabetes. The genetic factors are obviously beyond our scope of solving. However having a pre conceiving appointment with your doctor to discuss any concerns about developing this is great. Checking that you are in good health for having a baby is good idea. Eating healthy is a great start prior to becoming pregnant. Exercising is a good thing to start ahead of becoming pregnant. Also lose excess pounds before becoming pregnant. So much easier said than done, but do your best. It's ok if you don't get to goal, but even losing a little bit can make things in the future. Regardless you are going to be fine.
2 Questions For The Doctor
When you find out that you have to deal with a curveball, it occasionally can shake you. This may result in an inability to think of the questions that you need to know. Here are some examples of questions that may be helpful:
What things should I be doing to keep things under control?
Is there a class or educator that can help me to work out a plan for eating?
Is there a nutritionist to meet with?
What will determine whether I need to be on medication to control it?
What symptoms should prompt me to call in?
Do you have any brochures or written material to take home and study?
This is a good start for questions. Don't be afraid to write your own list and bring them with. This helps to stay organized and focused at that appointment. These baby appointments are especially hard to focus when you are wanting to hear the heartbeat and see where you are measuring.
1 What Will Happen To Baby After Birth?
After the baby is born there may be some additional blood sugar tests to make sure they are where they should be. Babies that are born from gestational diabetes pregnancies are more likely to develop obesity later in life. They also are more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes as they get older. If your gestational diabetes is poorly controlled there is a risk that your baby could suffer some learning disabilities. This is the results of the body breaking down fat and muscle tissue rather than glucose. This will cause ketones in your urine. Many offices will check your ketones at every appointment to make sure that this is not occurring. The studies on this are still controversial and have not been confirmed. However you should be aware of the possibility.