Get the facts on gestational diabetes
Chances are you’ve heard of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, but there is another form of diabetes that you may not be so familiar with: gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes occurs only in pregnancy and affects up to 18 percent of pregnant women, according to the American Diabetes Association. It is usually detected between the 24 and 28 week stage of pregnancy.
So what is gestational diabetes and how does it affect mom and baby?
Gestational diabetes is a condition that appears only during pregnancy and tends to resolve after delivery.
Paige Beal, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill., says that gestational diabetes starts when your body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy. Without enough insulin, glucose cannot leave the blood and be changed to energy, she says.
Glucose builds up in the blood to high levels, she says, and if left untreated, it can be harmful to both mom and baby.
“It can cause the baby to store the extra fat leading to a heavier birth weight, which can ultimately lead to an unplanned cesarean section for mom,” Beal says.
Beal says that women who are at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes often have these risk factors:
- Are overweight
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Had a previous baby weighing less than nine pounds
- Had a previous baby who died before birth
- Had gestational diabetes with a previous pregnancy
- Belong to these ethnic groups: Latina, African American, Native American, East Asian or Pacific Islander
As with most diseases, she says, gestational diabetes can result with no previous diabetic or family history. If you fall into the small percentage of women that form gestational diabetes while pregnant, Beal says your physician may recommend the following tips to help you along the way:
- Make an appointment with a registered dietitian or with a diabetes center
- Check blood glucose levels
- Appropriate exercise
- Follow a special meal plan
- Take medications if necessary
Dr. Liza Yambay Valiente, an endocrinologist with Advocate Medical Group in Normal, Ill., says that if you develop gestational diabetes during birth, your risk increases postpartum, therefore these women should be screened for diabetes six to 12 weeks after giving birth.
“The good news is that gestational diabetes usually resolves itself after the baby is born,” Dr. Valiente says. To learn more about gestational diabetes talk with your obstetrician or visit www.diabetes.org.
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