Gestational diabetes can be prevented during pregnancy

By Elizabeth Cazares
Feb. 13, 2018 at 8:21 p.m.
Updated Feb. 13, 2018 at 8:29 p.m.

Elizabeth Cazares

Two to 10 percent of pregnancies in the United States will be affected by gestational diabetes each year, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Gestational diabetes is a condition where women have high sugar levels when they are pregnant and have not had diabetes before.

In all four of my pregnancies, I had gestational diabetes. At first, I didn't quite understand gestational diabetes, but with each pregnancy, I learned more and more about it.

It is very important that women learn to manage gestational diabetes, which will ensure you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Many women wonder why they have diabetes now during their pregnancy when they didn't before. During pregnancy, women go through many physical and hormonal changes, and in some women, these changes may cause their body to use insulin less effectively, which then causes blood glucose levels to increase.

These high blood glucose levels can affect the growth and wellbeing of the baby.

Some women are at high risk of developing gestational diabetes. The risk is higher in women who are older than 25; women who have a history or family history of diabetes; women who are overweight or with a body mass index of 30 or higher; and women who are a nonwhite race.

Women should be screened for gestational diabetes and will usually take a blood sugar test between the 24th and the 28th week of pregnancy, but if they are at high risk, they may get tested sooner.

Having gestational diabetes can be very worrisome, but if women take certain precautions they can have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. The woman's physician will more than likely put the woman on a meal plan. The woman may have to check her blood glucose level before and after meals.

Exercise is also an important factor that can help manage a woman's blood glucose levels. but she must make sure her chosen exercises are cleared with her doctor.

When diet and exercise are not enough in controlling blood glucose levels, women may also have to take diabetic medication, such as metformin, insulin injections or other medication used to control high blood sugar levels.

The reason it is so important to take these precautions is gestational diabetes can cause complications if not controlled properly. These risks include heavy birth weight for the baby. Infants weighing 9 pounds or more can cause a difficult delivery for both mom and baby.

Another risk is that the baby may be born preterm, which can then lead to health complications for the baby like respiratory problems. Right after birth, some babies may also develop low blood sugar levels, also known as hypoglycemia.

Severe cases of hypoglycemia can cause babies to have seizures.

Infants born to mothers with gestational diabetes are also at a higher risk of becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes as they get older. The scariest complication of uncontrolled diabetes is the possibility of the death of the baby either prior to birth or right after.

Gestational diabetes can cause complications not only for the infant but also for the mother. During the pregnancy women can develop high blood pressure and preeclampsia, which also can put not only the infants' life at risk but also the mother's.

Usually, after the mother gives birth, the gestational diabetes goes away; however, it is very likely that the mother will have it again in future pregnancies. Women who have had gestational diabetes also have a high chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

Fortunately, if a pregnant woman eats healthy and exercises, she can reduce her chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes can be scary, but if the woman manages it properly, she will most likely have a healthy pregnancy and delivery, and may reduce the risks of future health problems for herself and her baby.

Women need to work closely with their doctor or health care team to manage their gestational diabetes.

In my pregnancies, working with my doctor and nurse helped me understand gestational diabetes and the importance of properly controlling it. With their help, I was able to have successful deliveries and healthy babies.

Consequently, because I have had this condition for all four of my pregnancies and diabetes is part of my family history, I have realized it is not only important to take care of my health when I am pregnant, but also, I need to take care of my health now and lead a healthy lifestyle. Health is valuable, and you should do what is in your power to guard it.

Elizabeth Cazares is an outready coordinator with the WIC Program.


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