Diabetes is a global epidemic that has major health implications and is one of the leading causes of death in the World. In short, diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how the body and its cells use glucose (sugar) for energy. It results in extremely high blood sugar levels and really low levels of insulin.
Over time, this can result in fatigue, blurred vision, extreme thirst, and in severe cases, stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and ultimately death. To be frank, diabetes and all that it encompasses is a major cause for concern to the health, well-being, and mortality of one’s life.
For pregnant women with diabetes, or for those that develop diabetes while pregnant, these health concerns become even more pronounced, and for obvious reasons.
If diabetes isn’t properly managed during pregnancy, the risk of complications for both the mother and the baby increases dramatically.
In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about diabetes and pregnancy, what gestational diabetes is, the causes and symptoms, as well as treatments and preventative measures.
So, without further ado, let’s get right into it!
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Before we go any further into the topic of diabetes and pregnancy, you’re likely wondering what gestational diabetes is. In short, gestational diabetes is diabetes diagnosed during pregnancy, with no other cause or previous history of diabetes.
Many women going through pregnancy experience high blood sugar levels. In severe cases where blood sugar levels get too high, gestational diabetes typically develops. Similar to traditional type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes affects the body in the same way; by affecting the cells’ ability to use glucose (sugar) for energy.
The good news is that gestational diabetes is largely preventable, highly treatable, and typically short-lived since the mother’s blood sugar levels tend to return to normal post-delivery.
Nevertheless, gestational diabetes is a serious condition that can have serious repercussions on both the mother and the baby. Those that experience gestational diabetes during pregnancy have a 50% chance of developing type 2 diabetes after pregnancy. In addition, gestational diabetes comes with several separate risk factors that you should consult with your doctor.
Moreover, if you already live with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and you become pregnant, additional complications may arise, both for you and the baby. A general recommendation if you had planned to but have yet to become pregnant is to first prioritize your health.
Causes of Diabetes during Pregnancy
While the cause of this type of diabetes is unknown, current research suggests that it’s likely attributed to hormones.
Moreover, those that are obese, sedentary, smoke, or have an inherent disposition to diabetes (i.e. a family member has diabetes) are most likely to experience gestational diabetes sometime during pregnancy.
If you experience the following symptoms, be sure to consult with your doctor immediately for treatment, advice, and recommendations for management and prevention.
Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes
Much like prediabetes, gestational diabetes doesn’t elicit many noticeable symptoms, if any. With that said, some women may mildly experience the following symptoms:
- General Fatigue
- Frequent Urination
- Incessant Thirst
- Rapid Weight Gain
As mentioned in the preface of this article, gestational diabetes, though oftentimes short-lived, isn’t something you should take lightly. In the worst of cases, this type of diabetes can cause several health conditions outside of diabetes that can impact both yourself and your baby.
In any case, always listen to your body, don’t ignore the symptoms no matter how mild, and never hesitate to seek medical attention.
Preventing Diabetes Before, During, and After Pregnancy
When discussing the prevention of gestational diabetes during pregnancy, there are no promises. Pregnancy is an extremely vulnerable situation to be in. With the extreme hormonal fluctuations and stress-induced pressures of pregnancy, there’s no telling whether or not diabetes will develop.
Nonetheless, by adopting a healthy lifestyle before pregnancy, taking the necessary steps during pregnancy, and continuing to live a healthy lifestyle after pregnancy, you give yourself the best chance at preventing gestational diabetes.
Below are some more specific steps to take to prevent such a diabetic situation from occurring:
- Implement a healthy diet rich in fiber and other nutrients
- Remain physically active, both before and after pregnancy
- Stay at a healthy weight and avoid becoming overweight or obese
- Cut out any poor habits (i.e. smoking, drinking)
If you’re planning on becoming pregnant, take these precautions to heart before committing. At the end of the day, not only is your health at risk, but your future baby’s health is at risk.
Treating Gestational Diabetes
If in the most unfortunate of circumstances you develop Gestational diabetes during pregnancy, the following is the likelihood of treatment prescribed by your doctor.
Because this type of diabetes is situational, the condition is extremely manageable. As such, the doctor is likely to recommend consistent testing of your blood sugar and extreme vigilance of your diet.
If this doesn’t work, insulin injections are the next logical prescription. In this case, insulin injections would be taken on a recommendation basis until you give birth. After a successful birth, a monitoring schedule of your blood sugar will be implemented and actions will be taken as necessary.
After giving birth, diabetes during pregnancy, or gestational diabetes, typically relieves itself of its duties. In other words, it tends to disappear post-birth. With that said, be sure to remain vigilant and get your blood sugars tested regularly.
While many don’t take gestational diabetes seriously because of its history of being temporary, gestational diabetes can present numerous complications during pregnancy and result in other complications later in life, both for the mother and the baby.
As a final recommendation, if you are or plan to become pregnant, or you’re simply an at-risk individual for type-2 diabetes, do everything you can to prevent it. Become physically active, eat healthily, quit bad habits, and seek medical attention if any symptoms arise.
Make your plan work for you
Your diabetes management plan can only be effective if you make the plan work for you. Our Diabetes Self-Management Education Program (DSMES) can help you design a plan that fits your lifestyle. To book your free consultation, click here.