Heba Abou Diab
Gestational diabetes - diabetes that develops during pregnancy - is a growing health concern worldwide, affecting 4% of pregnant women. Increased levels of pregnancy hormones interfere with your body’s ability to manage blood sugar leading to “insulin resistance.” Usually your pancreas (organ producing insulin) is able to compensate for insulin resistance by increasing insulin production. If your pancreas cannot sufficiently increase insulin production to overcome the effect of the increased hormones, your blood sugar levels will rise and cause gestational diabetes.
You have a greater risk of developing gestational diabetes if you:
- Are obese, hypertensive
- Have given birth to a large baby before
- Have given birth to a baby suffering from birth defects
- Have had diabetes in previous pregnancies
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Come from ethnic backgrounds: African, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Pacific Islander
- Are older than 30
- 50% of women who develop gestational diabetes have no risk factors.
If untreated, gestational diabetes can cause serious complications:
- Babies grow too large (macrosomia)
- Delivery problems (injuries to baby’s shoulders, arms & nerves)
- Risk for requiring cesarean section
- Sudden drop in the baby’s blood sugar, requiring treatment with sugar solution given through a needle in the vein
- Baby may have higher risk of developing jaundice (yellowing of the skin) and breathing problems
The risk of birth defects in infants whose mothers have gestational diabetes is low because most pregnant women develop gestational diabetes in the late second trimester, when the fetus has already fully developed.
If you have gestational diabetes, your baby doesn’t have an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes, however, your child is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes as well as be overweight throughout their life.
Most women’s sugar levels return to normal after delivery. However, once you’ve had gestational diabetes, you are more likely to develop diabetes during subsequent pregnancies. 50% of women with gestational diabetes have a chance of developing diabetes later in life.
How Is Gestational Diabetes Treated?
2,200 to 2,500 calories/day is the norm for women of average weight. If you’re overweight, you may need to lower that to 1,800 calories/day.
15 to 30 minutes activity daily will help your body use insulin better, and control blood sugar levels.
Test Your Blood Sugar
Blood sugar before meals should be 95 mg/dl or less, and 1 to 2 hours after meals 120 to 140 mg/dl.
If blood sugar remains high, the doctor may prescribe diabetes pills (metformin). If they don’t do the job, the next step may be insulin injections. How much insulin you need depends on your weight and how close you are to your due date.