What is gestational diabetes?
Women with no previous diabetes diagnosis who manifest high blood sugar levels during pregnancy are said to have gestational diabetes. It's estimated that this condition affects 18% of pregnancies. Gestational diabetes usually manifests around the 24th week.
Whether you contracted diabetes during pregnancy, or you were diabetic prior to becoming pregnant, the message is the same: it's important to follow your doctor's advice regarding blood glucose (blood sugar) levels so you can minimize complications to you and your baby.
With diabetes during pregnancy your pancreas works overtime to produce insulin, but the insulin does not lower your blood glucose levels. Although insulin does not cross the placenta, glucose does, raising the baby's blood glucose levels. The baby's pancreas responds by making extra insulin. This can lead to macrosomia, or a "fat" baby.
Babies with macrosomia face health problems of their own, including very low blood glucose levels at birth, higher risk for breathing problems, and even damage to their shoulders during birth. Throughout childhood they are at higher risk for obesity, and in adulthood they run a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes can also lead to complications to the mother such as preeclampsia (high blood pressure and protein in the urine), and may increase her chances of needing a cesarean section or c-section because of the baby's increased size.
How can I protect my baby?
Work with your health care team to develop a plan to keep your blood sugars in a good range. Following this plan can help you to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. Your plan will include:
- Regular visits with your team
- Monitoring your blood sugar levels
- Using medication if blood sugar levels remain high
- Healthy eating
- Physical activity