Updated: Sep 30, 2019
Gestational diabetes is found in pregnant women that have never had insulin insensitivity or resistance and were never diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Doctors usually test for gestational diabetes through a glucose test about midway through pregnancy. For many women, their symptoms go away after they give birth with no trace of insulin resistance. Unfortunately --some may persist.
Gestational diabetes is mostly due to the fact that placental hormones are very strong and lead to a build up f glucose within the maternal bloodstream. Many women can make up for this by increasing insulin production---others cannot.
For many pregnant mothers, their gestational diabetes diagnosis is related to genetic disposition (mother, grandmother, etc. had gestational diabetes). For others it could be related to their diet going into pregnancy OR the diagnosis is simply an unfortunate turn of events within pregnancy.
Women who are overweight or have high blood pressure may be at higher risks for developing gestational diabetes, as well as women who have had gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies. Women who are older when having children (35+) are at a higher risk than younger mothers.
How do you control your gestational diabetes?
Good news! Gestational diabetes can (in most cases) be controlled through both diet and exercise. An excepted option is consuming a balanced diet with consistent carbohydrates throughout the day to help keep blood sugar levels regular and normal. This includes fruits and vegetables as well as lean meats and whole grains.
If a change in diet and exercise is not enough to control blood sugars, you may need to begin administering insulin. In this case, you should certainly work with a registered dietitian who is familiar with both diabetes and maternal health to ensure you are meeting your nutritional needs.
Besides diet, another way to help prevent further diabetes complications after birth is through breastfeeding. When mothers breastfeed after having gestational diabetes --- it prevents their risks of developing diabetes in two ways:
Breastfeeding helps you and your baby regulate blood glucose levels.
Breastfeeding exclusively helps to prevent developing diabetes later in life for all women.
Unfortunately, if not controlled, gestational diabetes can cause a number of issues for both the mother and her baby. Women with gestational diabetes are at higher risk for the development of diabetes later in life. They also have a higher risk for developing hypertension and preeclampsia (which you can read about the risks and interventions in our blog post here) during pregnancy.
The higher risk for hypertension and preeclampsia means these mothers have a higher risk of a c-section birth and even preterm induced labor. Furthermore, the above complications could attribute to your baby being 'overfed' and getting too big which may cause discomfort for the mother as well as additional complications during birth that may cause neural damage.
Women who had gestational diabetes have higher risks for fatty liver disease and hepatic steatosis later on in life.
If you HAD gestational diabetes it is important that you get tested after giving birth to make sure your insulin function is back to normal.
At Mamas Maternal Health, we specialize in maternal nutrition and can help you control your diabetes during pregnancy---whether gestational, type 1, or type 2! Check out our website to find out how!
Until next time!
Mikayla and Cassie
Mamas Maternal Health Registered Dietitians/Lactation Counselors
Lawrence, M., (2016)., Jaundice and the Breastfed Baby., Breastfeeding and Human Lactation. https://www.healio.com/endocrinology/diabetes/news/online/%7B3f30212e-967a-4ffd-8715-7ed7f5c23206%7D/gestational-diabetes-increases-risk-for-fatty-liver-later-in-life
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