Gestational diabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar levels become high during pregnancy. It is diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy (gestation). There are two classes of gestational diabetes. Women with class A1 can manage it through diet and exercise. Those who have class A2 need to take insulin or other medications.
Gestational diabetes goes away after you give birth. But it can affect your baby’s health, and it raises your risk of getting diabetes type 2 later in life. You can take steps so you and your baby stay healthy.
While any pregnancy complication is concerning, there’s good news. Expectant mothers can help control gestational diabetes by eating healthy foods, exercising, and, if necessary, taking medication. Doing so can keep you and your baby healthy and prevent a difficult delivery.
Target Blood Sugar Levels for Women During Pregnancy
The American Diabetes Association recommends these targets for pregnant women who test their blood sugar:
- Before a meal: 95 mg/dL or less
- An hour after a meal: 140 mg/dL or less
- Two hours after a meal: 120 mg/dL or less
Some women are at a greater risk of having gestational diabetes.
Risk factors for gestational diabetes include the following:
- Overweight and obese woman
- A lack of physical activity or sedentary lifestyle
- Previous gestational diabetes or prediabetes.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome.
- Diabetes in an immediate family member.
- Previously delivering a baby weighing more than 9 pounds (4.1 kilograms).
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Age above 25
- Have high blood pressure or other medical conditions
Gestational diabetes doesn’t show a lot of symptoms, you may feel;
- Thirstier more than usual
- Hungrier more than usual
- Pee more than usual
Gestational diabetes may affect both you and your baby;
Complications you may experience:
Gestational diabetes may also increase your risk of:
High blood pressure and preeclampsia:
Gestational diabetes raises your risk of high blood pressure, as well as preeclampsia, a serious complication of pregnancy that causes high blood pressure and other symptoms that can threaten the lives of both mother and baby.
Surgical delivery (C-section):
If you have gestational diabetes, you are more prone to have a C-section.
If you have gestational diabetes, you’re more likely to get it again during a future pregnancy. You also have a higher risk of type-2 diabetes as you get older.
Complications that may affect your baby:
If you have gestational diabetes, your baby may be at increased risk of:
Excessive birth weight:
Higher than normal blood sugar in mothers can cause their babies to grow too large. May weigh 9 pounds or more, and are more likely to become wedged in the birth canal, have birth injuries or need a C-section birth.
Babies born early to mothers with gestational diabetes may experience respiratory distress syndrome, a condition that makes breathing difficult.
High blood sugar may increase women’s risk of early labor and delivery before the due date. Or early delivery may be recommended because the baby is large.
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia):
Sometimes babies of mothers with gestational diabetes have low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) shortly after birth. Severe episodes of hypoglycemia may cause seizures in the baby. Prompt feedings and sometimes an intravenous glucose solution can return the baby’s blood sugar level to normal.
Obesity and type 2 diabetes:
Babies of mothers who have gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.
Untreated gestational diabetes can result in a baby’s death either before or shortly after birth.
How can you prevent yourself from having gestational diabetes?
When it comes to gestational diabetes, there are no guarantees. But the more healthy habits you can adopt before pregnancy, the better you can cure. If you’ve had gestational diabetes, these healthy choices may also reduce your risk of having it again in future pregnancies or developing type 2-diabetes in the future.
Add foods that are high in fiber and low in fat and calories to your diet. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Strive for variety to help you achieve your goals without compromising taste or nutrition. Watch portion size, which matters a lot in your diet.
Here are a few healthy choices:
- Fresh vegetables
- Chicken (boiled or steamed)
- Unsweetened yogurt
- Fresh fruits
Foods you should avoid:
- Fast food
- Fried food
- Chocolates or candies
- Donut, cake or muffin
- White rice
Exercising before and during pregnancy can help protect you from developing gestational diabetes. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week. Take a brisk daily walk. Ride your bike. Swim laps. Short bursts of activity, such as parking further away from the store when you run errands or taking a short walk break all add up too.
Many activities, however, are not suitable for pregnant women.
- Exercises that involve lying down on your back, particularly after 16 weeks
- Contact sports, especially martial arts
- Any sports that involve a high risk of falling. Pregnancy changes your centre of gravity, and that affects your balance. Avoid exercises that involve a high risk of falling. That includes any sports that involve a lot of changes in direction, such as badminton and tennis.
- Scuba diving
Start pregnancy at a healthy weight:
If you’re planning to get pregnant, losing extra weight beforehand may help you have a healthier pregnancy. Focus on making lasting changes to your eating habits that can help you through pregnancy, such as eating more vegetables and fruits.
Don’t gain more weight:
Gaining some weight during pregnancy is normal and healthy. But gaining too much weight too quickly can up your risk of gestational diabetes. Ask your doctor what a reasonable amount of weight gain is for you.