There are many unknowns when having a baby. How much will the baby weigh? Will it be a boy or a girl? Will the baby look more like the mother or father? If the expectant mother has been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, she may have even more questions. How will the condition affect my baby? Will diabetes go away after the delivery? Will gestational diabetes develop in subsequent pregnancies?
Untreated or uncontrolled gestational diabetes can cause problems for babies, including high birth weight, respiratory distress, jaundice or low blood sugar. (Gestational diabetes typically does not cause birth defects or diabetes in the newborn.) The condition occurs only during pregnancy, usually appearing in the second trimester, and then disappearing after delivery. Women who develop gestational diabetes in one pregnancy or had a baby that weighed more than nine pounds are more likely to have the condition with the next pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes occurs when the placenta, which passes nutrients, blood and water to the fetus, makes certain hormones that prevent insulin from working properly. The condition usually occurs in the 20th to 24th week of pregnancy, when extra insulin made by the pancreas cannot overcome hormones made by the placenta.
Out of every 100 pregnant women in the United States, three to eight women will develop gestational diabetes. Risk factors for the condition include being overweight or over the age of 25, having a personal or family history of diabetes, and being African-American, Hispanic, American Indian or Asian. Screening for gestational diabetes is included in routine prenatal care.
Once diagnosed, the condition can be successfully managed to avoid complications during delivery and keep the baby healthy. A treatment plan may include:
- Controlling blood sugar levels. Most women with gestational diabetes should have a blood glucose level under 95 mg/DL on awakening, less than 140 mg/DL one hour after a meal, and not above 120 mg/DL two hours after a meal.
- Eating a healthy diet. Expectant mothers should limit sweets, and eat three small meals and one to three snacks per day. Include fiber in the form of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain crackers, cereal and bread.
- Following a regular exercise schedule. Exercise can help keep blood sugar under control and balance food intake. Under doctor’s guidance, 30 minutes per day of walking, swimming or some form of moderate aerobic activity may be recommended.
- Taking medications as prescribed. Some women also may need insulin injections or oral medications to lower blood sugar.
Women who have gestational diabetes and their babies run a higher than normal risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life. That is why it is important to maintain a reasonable weight, eat healthy, continue to exercise, and have a diabetes test every one to two years.
For more information about gestational diabetes, talk with your doctor, or call 866-904-9262 for a free referral to a specialist near you.Diabetes Outpatient Program
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