Although the arrival of a new family member offers plenty of cause for celebration, it can also present some potential health complications for expectant mothers. One such issue, diabetes, may grow harder to manage during pregnancy or even develop in women who have never experienced the condition before.
If you are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant, you need to understand the delicate relationship between pregnancy and diabetes, from its causes and effects to smart strategies for keeping it under control. Start by examining the answers to these frequently asked questions on the topic.
What Does Diabetes Involve?
Diabetes involves abnormally high levels of sugar in the bloodstream. This excess sugar can damage nerves, blood vessels, and other parts of the body if it goes unchecked. The pancreas regulates blood sugar levels by releasing a hormone called insulin. If something goes wrong with this regulation, you may develop diabetes.
The two main types of diabetes include Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas simply can’t make enough insulin to control your blood sugar. In Type 2 diabetes, your body grows resistant to normal levels of insulin. However, pregnant women can also develop a third type known as gestational diabetes.
How Does Gestational Diabetes Differ From Other Types of Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes affects nearly ten percent of pregnant women with no previous history of diabetes. While researchers don’t know why this condition affects some women but not others, risk factors include excess weight, a sedentary lifestyle, previous delivery of an unusually large baby, racial background, and a family history of diabetes.
Gestational diabetes usually disappears after the mother gives birth. However, women who experience gestational diabetes have a 50 percent chance of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
What Risks Can Gestational Diabetes Pose for Mothers and Babies?
Pregnancy causes a woman’s hormone levels to fluctuate. If you already had diabetes before becoming pregnant, you may suddenly find the condition trickier to control. If you already had diabetes-related problems such as organ damage, those problems may grow worse during pregnancy unless you adjust your treatment plan.
Prenatal diabetes can raise your risk for a condition called preeclampsia. Women with preeclampsia develop high blood pressure and high urine protein levels, a condition throughout the later months of pregnancy. If you develop preeclampsia, you may have to have your baby earlier than the expected due date.
Babies can also experience problems from uncontrolled prenatal diabetes. High blood sugar during pregnancy can affect the development of a fetus’s organs and other systems. Affected babies may also have a high birth weight, breathing issues, low blood sugar, and an elevated risk for developing diabetes someday.
How Can You Minimize Your Diabetes Risk Before and During Pregnancy?
All pregnant women are screened for gestational diabetes when they are approximately 28 weeks with a test called a one-hour glucola. You should not fast for this test but should eat a healthy normal breakfast. If your screening test is elevated, then a longer three-hour test will be performed. Occasionally, women will be screened earlier in their pregnancy if they have risk factors for gestational diabetes.
You can reduce your risk for developing diabetes before you become pregnant. Ask your doctor for diet and exercise strategies to help you maintain normal blood sugar. If you already have diabetes, your doctor will monitor your blood sugar carefully, altering your medication as needed. You might need to take insulin to control gestational diabetes.
Between prenatal checkups, you should check your blood sugar levels at home. Many over-the-counter kits make this procedure quick and easy. Aim for blood sugar readings of no more than 95mg/dl before a meal, 140 mg/dl an hour after eating, and 120 mg/dl two hours after eating. If you can’t achieve these numbers, talk to your doctor.
Stellis Health provides a wide range of prenatal and women’s health services. Contact any of our locations to get more answers to your questions about diabetes and pregnancy or schedule a prenatal exam.