Gestational Diabetes

Receiving the diagnosis of gestational diabetes can be upsetting for the mother to be.  Not only does the mother fear the risk to her own health, but also for the baby. Gestational diabetes is generally diagnosed during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. In some instances, it can be diagnosed in the first trimester.  This is usually due to diabetes being undiagnosed prior to the pregnancy. It is commonly a routine to have a blood test during the end of the second trimester or beginning of the third trimester. This test includes fasting and then drinking glucola which is a mixture of concentrated sugar.

Approximately 3-10 % of pregnant woman will develop diabetes. It is generally more common in African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans. It is typically more common in women who are overweight and have a family history of diabetes.  Gestational diabetes is controlled in the majority of women with diet and exercise. Some women will require insulin, but generally the diabetes can be managed with diet and exercise alone. When a woman is diagnosed with gestational diabetes by her doctor, the next step is to make an appointment with a registered dietitian since diet is the main method of treatment. 

If possible, try to pick a registered dietitian who is also a certified diabetes educator since a good knowledge of diabetes is essential.  The registered dietitian will take a detailed dietary history to determine the best diet plan for you. You will then be educated on the importance of the diet in the treatment of gestational diabetes. You will also receive an in depth instruction on carbohydrate counting, nutrient needs, and the importance of distributing the carbohydrate throughout the day.  Glucose monitoring is an important aspect of your care and the registered dietitian/diabetes educator can get you started on proper monitoring of your blood sugars. Goals should be set pre and post meal for you to aim for. 

Monitoring blood sugars is crucial because if the baby is exposed to high blood sugars its pancreas will begin to make more insulin. This production will cause the baby to deposit more fat which predisposes the baby to being overweight at birth. This is also a risk to the baby later in life since the production of added insulin by the baby puts a strain on its pancreas. This will cause the baby to be more prone to obesity and Type II diabetes throughout its life.  The mother must also be careful to manage her weight gain since the added weight will make it more difficult for delivery causing an increase in caesarean sections.  After pregancy, mothers will need to concentrate on losing weight since obesity will increase her chances of developing diabetes in the future.

Mothers with diabetes in pregnancy should take heart that good control of blood sugars, eating a healthy diet, and doing moderate exercise with physician’s permission will reduce health risks to both mother and baby. And losing weight postpartum will set a good example and reduce her child’s chance of becoming overweight and developing diabetes.Women with a history of gestational diabetes need to be a role model for good eating habits and exercise.
 

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