As you may know by now, there are different types of diabetes circulating today and the question is, what is gestational diabetes? Aside from Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, the general public is not familiar with other forms of diabetes and there is even less gestational diabetes information out there today. But we are here to help outline gestational diabetes so you can recognize it within your own life or for a loved one.
You may have also heard the term, gestational diabetes mellitus and this is just another phrase used to describe gestational diabetes. Right off the bat we are going to tell you that this form of diabetes is only found in pregnant women. This of course eliminates a high majority of the population which may be why many people are not quite sure what this condition is.
If a woman develops diabetes while she is pregnant but she did not have diabetes prior to the pregnancy, this is considered gestational diabetes. The basics of diabetes in general is when your body begins having problems digesting carbohydrates. You stomach and intestines digest the carbs you consume and turn them into a sugar known as glucose. Glucose is used as a main source of energy and it is dispersed into the blood stream to be utilized throughout the day.
In order to regulate the glucose within the blood stream your pancreas will create a product known as insulin to control the blood glucose levels naturally. When your pancreas stops producing insulin or your body no longer responds to this system you will develop high blood sugar; diabetes.
What is gestational diabetes? – More Information
Gestational diabetes affects approximately 5% of pregnancies today, about 200,000 cases in the USA per year. Now the question is how do I know if I have gestational diabetes?
Since you have never had diabetes before you are not likely looking for any warning signs or symptoms because you have so many other things to think about. With this being said, it has become part of your pregnancy health to be checked for gestational diabetes during the beginning of your first trimester.
About 24-28 weeks into your pregnancy your doctor will test your blood sugar to make sure you are within normal ranges. Below are some of the different tests your physician may perform in order to find out for certain how your body is reacting to the pregnancy.
• Fasting is the best way to get a good reading on your blood sugar levels. Your physician will ask you to fast for 4-8hours prior to your appointment. When you arrive they will test your blood sugar and then test it again 2hours later after you have consumed a very high in sugar beverage. This test is called oral glucose tolerance test and it is quite accurate.
• Now we are talking about a preliminary test. Instead of fasting prior to your appointment your doctor will simply ask you to drink their high in sugar beverage and check your blood sugar after an hour. If they find your levels to be normal than you are most likely not a candidate for gestational diabetes. If they find your blood sugar levels to be higher than normal they may require you to then go through the oral glucose tolerance test mentioned above.
As a mother-to-be you may be wondering how gestational diabetes can affect your baby should you develop this condition during your pregnancy. Now keep in mind that if this is your second or third pregnancy you can still develop gestational diabetes even if you did not for your prior pregnancies. When you take control of your diabetes and are diligent to eat healthy and exercise you will have nothing to worry about in terms of the development of your baby. On the other hand, there are side effects that can occur:
• Your baby can be born with low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. There is the possibility to correct this by immediately beginning breast feeding to get more glucose to your baby.
• Jaundice is quite common which is not a severe side effect but something that needs to be addressed immediately after birth
• Respiratory Distress Syndrome is rare but it can affect your baby causing them to require oxygen to help them breathe properly directly after birth. In many cases this is not a long term complication.
• The baby’s body may be larger than normal. This is referred to as macrosomia.
Gestational diabetes is treated the same way any other form of diabetes. You want to try to avoid reaching the level where insulin treatment is needed and in order to avoid this extreme level you must concentrate on eating a healthy diet, taking part in safe forms of exercise and of course checking your blood sugar levels on a regular basis. During this special time of your life you want to closely pay attention to yourself and your body.
You may be happy to hear that after the baby is born your blood sugar levels will most likely return to normal. About 6weeks after the baby is born your physician will check your blood sugar levels to make sure it is falling back into a normal range. Your doctor will likely advise you to keep an eye on your blood sugar levels within the following weeks to ensure it is within normal levels before forgetting about it completely. Just because you experienced gestational diabetes once is not to say it will happen during your next pregnancy but precautions should be taken to prepare for it.
If you plan on having another baby, 2-3months before getting pregnant you should be visiting your physician to have your blood sugar levels tested to ensure you are not developing Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. This allows you to safely begin your pregnancy but consistent tests will be administered and your blood sugar will be watched closely for your safety as well as your baby’s.
Now, when someone asks you what is gestational diabetes you can tell them exactly what this condition is and how it can effect your life.