Women who see their obstetrician for a routine pregnancy check-up are often surprised to learn they have gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that occurs in pregnant women who have never had high blood sugar levels before.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gestational diabetes affects at least 1 in 20 pregnant women, usually during the later months of pregnancy, when the baby is growing rapidly. While various factors can put a woman at higher risk, doctors believe it occurs because changing hormones cause the body to resist insulin, which can cause high blood sugar (glucose) levels for mothers-to-be.
If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it’s important to follow your doctor’s advice and to begin treatment quickly. Untreated diabetes can hurt you and your baby, and may lead to a larger baby and the need for a cesarean section birth.
Fortunately, gestational diabetes is something you can manage with good glucose control. Here are some tips to protect your baby and yourself:
- Get prenatal care early and have regular checkups. Be sure you are screened at 24-28 weeks of pregnancy.
- Keep your weight down. Staying within the normal body mass index (BMI) range will decrease your chance of developing gestational diabetes.
- If you are diagnosed, be diligent about monitoring your blood glucose levels. Your doctor will recommend the safest levels for you — these levels are different for pregnant women and vary from woman to woman.
- Eat a variety of healthy foods — this can help avoid the need for you to take insulin while you are pregnant. This includes plenty of whole fruits and vegetables; moderate amounts of lean proteins, healthy fats, whole grains and starchy vegetables; and fewer sugary foods such as soft drinks, fruit juices and sweets.
- Follow a consistent meal and snack routine, with three small to moderate meals and one or more snacks per day.
- Avoid fried foods. Some research links it with gestational diabetes.
- Get regular exercise.
Gestational diabetes usually goes away after pregnancy, but having it does increase the chance that it will return in future pregnancies. In a few women, however, it uncovers type 1 or type 2 diabetes, requiring treatment after pregnancy.
Baptist Health offers free diabetes prevention classes and counseling for women with diabetes at many locations throughout the state. Visit BaptistHealthKentucky.com to find schedule of classes at your local Baptist Health facility.