Gestational Diabetes During Pregnancy and Later in Life
Gestational diabetes affects 10% of all births in the U.S. Of those births, 50% of the mothers develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy; it is not when someone already diagnosed with diabetes gets pregnant. Often symptomless, most women undergo a glucose tolerance test between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. If symptoms occur, they include fatigue, nausea, and excessive thirst and urination.
The exact cause of gestational diabetes is unknown, but hormones are believed to play a role, especially since a woman’s hormone levels change so much during pregnancy.
Being overweight or obese is linked to GD, as is a history of heart disease or hypertension. Other risk factors include being over the age of 25, having prediabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, or previously delivering a baby over 9 pounds. Also, those from African American, Asian, Native American or Hispanic backgrounds are more likely to develop GD.
Complications for baby include excessive birth weight, getting stuck in the birth canal and birth injuries, as well as a higher likelihood of a cesarean delivery.
Babies born to moms with gestational diabetes are at higher risk for preterm labor, respiratory distress, low blood sugar and stillbirth. They are also more likely to develop obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.
For mom, the complications of GD include hypertension and possible pre-eclampsia, a condition that threatens the life of both mother and child.
Treatment involves eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise. Expectant mothers with GD need to be monitored more closely by doctors, possibly by a high-risk pregnancy specialist. They may need a special meal plan or medication, possibly insulin, and daily glucose monitoring.
Preventing Gestational Diabetes From Becoming Type 2 Diabetes
Mothers will be tested for diabetes at about 6 to 12 weeks post-birth and every one to three years afterwards.
A diet rich in protein, and low in fat and complex carbs is best for preventing diabetes, while exercise is equally important. Physical activity may include walking, jogging, bike riding, swimming or even gardening. Of course, be sure to clear physical activities with your physician.
Ideally, a woman will adopt a healthy lifestyle before even becoming pregnant. Getting to a healthy weight prior to pregnancy does a lot to prevent GD and many other health issues during pregnancy and later in life. While gestational diabetes has no cure, it is manageable and can be the impetus to develop healthy habits.