Are you midway through your pregnancy and suddenly feeling excessively thirsty? Are you constantly exhausted and frequently feel the urge to pee? If yes, perhaps it is time to get tested for gestational diabetes or diabetes during pregnancy. It is completely normal to miss the signs of gestational diabetes since they are similar to other pregnancy symptoms.
Gestational diabetes only happens during pregnancy. The woman diagnosed with gestational diabetes may not have had diabetes before she got pregnant and this type of diabetes also goes away the delivery of the baby. Doctors screen for gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 months of pregnancy when it is most likely to be detected.
Also read: Pregnancy Risks After 35 Years Of Age
Symptoms of gestational diabetes
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive urination: Most pregnant women experience the urge to urinate frequently and lightly in the early stages of pregnancy. However, frequent urination due to gestational diabetes is different as it is heavier urination.
- Fatigue: This is easy to confuse as an effect of being pregnant which is why it is important to screen for gestational diabetes.
Sugar in the urine: This can only be detected by screening for gestational diabetes.
Causes of gestational diabetes
Gestational diabetes is fairly common affecting between 10-14% of all pregnant women in India, a higher percentage than that of the west.
The cause of gestational diabetes is understood to be the pregnancy hormones and it might make using insulin difficult. During pregnancy, the placenta (the organ that feeds and delivers oxygen to your baby) releases hormones that help your baby grow. Some of these make it harder for your body to make or use insulin causing insulin resistance. To balance the insulin levels, the pancreas has to make more insulin but if it can’t your blood sugar will rise which then causes gestational diabetes.
The following factors increase the likelihood of having gestational diabetes:
- Being overweight before pregnancy with a BMI of over 30.
- Having a prior history of gestational diabetes with a previous child.
- Having a family history of diabetes with a parent or sibling with diabetes.
Women of some regions are more susceptible to gestational diabetes - Southern Asian, Indian, Caribbean, and African.
Effects of gestational diabetes
If gestational diabetes is diagnosed and treated on time, it does not affect the mother or the growing baby. However, if left untreated, it can have a number of consequences on the growing foetus and the mother-to-be. The effects include:
- The baby could be too large making natural delivery difficult and increasing the likelihood of a cesarean delivery.
- Increased risk of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure in pregnant women) in the mother which increases the risk of stillbirth.
- Increased risk of hypoglycaemia (level of blood sugar below normal level) in babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes irrespective of whether the mother was on insulin or not.
Research has also indicated that babies of mothers with diabetes during pregnancy have an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.
Also read: How Do Fibroids Affect Pregnancy And Fertility
Management of diabetes during pregnancy
It is suggested that all pregnant women who test positive for Gestational Diabetes should be started on medical, nutritional and physical therapy in consultation with their doctors.
Gestational diabetes can be easily treated with the right medication in case of most pregnant women which can be prescribed by the consulting doctor.
Carbohydrates are essential to provide energy, but have a direct impact on the blood sugar levels. Complex carbohydrates (which take a longer time to break down like whole-grains and cereal - oats, bajra, ragi, jowar, vegetables, whole fruits) should be preferred over simple carbohydrates (sugar, honey, food made from refined flour) as they take longer to break down and have lesser impact on blood sugar levels.
Saturated fats should make up less than 10% of the total calorie intake in case of all adults, especially pregnant women with Gestational Diabetes. You could manage your fat intake by avoiding fried food, using lean meat, using low-fat products instead of full fat or whole milk products and substituting sugary snacks with fresh fruit and salads.
The protein requirements of a pregnant woman are higher for normal foetal growth. Eat at least 3 servings of protein daily - milk and milk products, pulses and dals, eggs, chicken or fish as per your food preferences.
Also read: When Is The Best Time To Get Pregnant And Why?
Foods high in soluble fibre help control blood sugar. Such foods include flax seeds, oats, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), root vegetables and psyllium husk etc.
In most pregnant women with diabetes, it gets resolved soon after delivery. The post-pregnancy care of women with this type of diabetes is not very different from that of women without. However, these women have a higher chance of developing Type 2 diabetes in the future. Therefore taking the following precautions are essential:
- Regular blood glucose testing
- Lifestyle modifications to include regular exercise and weight management.
- Adopting a healthy diet on a regular basis which includes avoiding sweet and reducing fat and carbohydrate intake.
Points to remember
- Gestational diabetes is common and easy to control with diet and exercise.
- Only in a few cases are oral medications or insulin injections required.
- In case you are taking insulin injections on the abdomen, do not worry. There is no way the injection can reach the growing baby.
Also read: Can You Get Pregnant When You Are Already Pregnant?
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