Managing Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is a condition that occurs in pregnant women who have never been diagnosed with diabetes before but have high blood-sugar levels during pregnancy.
Women who are at greater risk of gestational diabetes:
- Have a history of diabetes in their families.
- Have a body mass index of 30 or higher.
- Have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies.
High levels of hormones being produced in the placenta, which connects a mother’s blood stream to the developing baby, impair the action of insulin in a mother’s cells, causing her blood sugar to rise.
“As the baby grows, the placenta produces more hormones that block insulin, which creates a rise in blood-sugar levels that affects the growth and health of the baby,” explains says Dr. Carol Fujiyoshi, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist (OB-GYN) with Kauai Medical Clinic.
According to Fujiyoshi, gestational diabetes is usually diagnosed in the last half of pregnancy, after the baby’s body has been formed.
“An expectant mother should have her blood-sugar level monitored as part of her prenatal care, as gestational diabetes does not have noticeable symptoms,” Fujiyoshi says.
It's important for women who are diagnosed to receive treatment and manage their condition. Untreated gestational diabetes can cause high blood-sugar levels in the baby, leading to his or her pancreas to make extra insulin.
When a baby receives more energy (in the form of blood sugar) than what is necessary to grow, that sugar is stored as fat. This can lead to a baby growing too large (macrosomia) and can cause complications during birth.
“Pregnant women can control gestational diabetes with preventive steps, including exercising, eating healthy and taking medication, if necessary,” Fujiyoshi says.
To keep blood sugar under control, expectant mothers should:
- See their doctor regularly.
- Work with a dietitian or diabetes educator to develop a diabetes meal plan.
- Gain weight gradually. The recommended weight gain is 2-4 pounds for the first three months, and 1 pound per week for the remaining six months.
- Combine food groups.
- Budget carbohydrates at meals and snacks.
- Select healthful foods.
- Eat at regular hours.
- Observe blood-glucose patterns.
- Stay active to help keep blood-sugar levels down, and exercise regularly – before, during and after pregnancy.
“While gestational diabetes only lasts through pregnancy, mothers who were diagnosed should keep a close eye on their blood sugar even after delivery, as they will be at greater risk of developing diabetes post-pregnancy,” Fujiyoshi says.
Published on: April 26, 2016