Gestational Diabetes

Identifying and controlling gestational diabetes

Pregnancy can pose some specific risks and challenges for women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, but rest assured that these can be overcome with proper care and precaution. Learn about the causes and risks of pregnancy diabetes, what symptoms to expect and how to manage the condition.

Diabetes and Pregnancy

Although they share some common features, gestational diabetes and type 1 or type 2 diabetes will influence pregnancy in different ways. All types of diabetes will affect the way your body produces and uses insulin, which in turn affects the level of glucose that remains in the blood. Pregnant women with diabetes will need to monitor their blood glucose levels carefully during the first few weeks of pregnancy to ensure that the baby's spinal cord and internal organs develop properly.

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On the other hand, gestational diabetes typically occurs after the fetus has gone through the crucial developmental stages and thus will pose a relatively small risk to the health of the baby—jaundice, low blood sugar and a high birth weight are the most common ailments after delivery.

Although any woman may develop gestational diabetes, there are some risk factors that increase your chances, including age, heredity and lifestyle. Obesity, a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure and those over 30 years of age can all contribute to gestational diabetes. However, gestational diabetes is a short-lived condition—it only affects pregnant women, and it will usually disappear altogether almost immediately following childbirth.

Since there are few symptoms of gestational diabetes aside from excessive thirst and hunger, your healthcare provider will usually conduct a gestational diabetes test toward the end of the second trimester, between week 24 and week 27, unless you have some risk factors that will necessitate an earlier test.

Controlling Gestational Diabetes

For those who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, blood glucose monitoring and a healthy diet will become a part of your daily routine. Your physician may also want to observe the baby more closely, with the help of a fetal monitor and frequent ultrasounds.

Depending on the type of gestational diabetes you are diagnosed with, you may need to combine a modified diet and regular exercise with insulin injections to keep your blood sugar at an appropriate level. A gestational diabetes diet will include foods that are low on the glycemic index, which means abandoning simple carbohydrates like pasta and white rice in favor of slow-release carbohydrate sources like whole grains and certain vegetables. Look for a cookbook that is based on low glycemic recipes to enjoy a delicious variety of healthy meals without the threat of high-glucose foods.