Gestational diabetes is an illness in which the blood sugar levels rise during pregnancy. It is a type of diabetes that is primarily seen in a pregnant woman with no diabetes history before pregnancy. The test for gestational diabetes is conducted between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. The condition can be managed by following a healthy lifestyle and consuming a well-balanced diet and regular exercise. Gestational diabetes usually goes away post-delivery. However, it can affect the baby’s health, and raise the risk of type 2 diabetes later in life. There are two classes of gestational diabetes, women with class A1 can manage it with a healthy diet and proper exercise while class A2 needs to be managed with insulin therapy or other medications.
Gestational diabetes in pregnancy can lead to:
An Oversized Baby
Diabetes, if not treated well, risks the newborn with high blood sugar. The baby is “overfed” and becomes oversized. In addition to causing the woman pain during the last few months of pregnancy, for both the mother and the infant, an oversized baby may lead to complications during childbirth. To deliver a baby, the mother might need a C-Section. Due to pressure on the shoulder during birth, the baby can also be affected with nerve damage during vaginal birth (shoulder dystocia)
A C-section is a surgery to deliver the baby from the womb of the mother. A woman suffering from diabetes has a greater risk of having a C-section. When the baby is born through a C-section, recovery from childbirth takes longer for the mother (increase chances of infection)
High Blood Pressure
When a pregnant woman is suffering from high blood pressure, it leads to protein in her urine, swelling in fingers and toes and this condition is known as preeclampsia. It is a serious problem that needs to be watched closely and managed by a doctor. High blood pressure can cause harm to both the woman and her unborn baby. Women with diabetes have high blood pressure more often than women without diabetes.
Low Blood Sugar
Women with diabetes who take insulin or other medicines for the condition can develop blood sugar that is low. If not treated quickly, low blood sugar can be dangerous, and even fatal. If women watch their blood sugar closely and handle low blood sugar early, it is possible to prevent seriously low blood sugar levels. If a woman’s diabetes during pregnancy has not been well managed, her baby may develop low blood sugar very quickly after birth. The blood sugar of the baby must be tracked for several hours after birth.
Here are some tip for women suffering from Gestational diabetes:
1. Eat a healthy, balanced diet
Eating the right diet is central to controlling diabetes. One should not try to “wing it” or create a diet on their own. Instead, a dietician can help create a healthy meal plan. A dietician can also help control blood sugar levels while you are pregnant.
2. Exercise Moderately
Exercise is one of the essential tips for controlling blood sugar. It helps to balance food intake. After a regular checkup with the doctor, one must exercise on a regular basis in order to stay fit and healthy. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at least 5 days a week.
3. Monitor blood sugar on a regular basis
Maintain control over blood sugar, through regular testing. This can also include testing up to five times per day basis for the doctor’s recommendation.
4. Take insulin if required
Sometimes a woman suffering from gestational diabetes must need insulin as it helps to keep blood sugar under control.
5. Get tested for diabetes after pregnancy
Get tested for diabetes 6 to 12 weeks after your baby is born, and then after every 1 to 3 years. For most women with gestational diabetes, diabetes goes away after delivery. If diabetes does not go away, then it is called type 2 diabetes. It is important for a woman who has had gestational diabetes to continue to do regular exercise, consult a dietician and eat a rich healthy diet after pregnancy to prevent or delay getting type 2 diabetes.
The author is a doctor with the Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics at CK Birla Hospital, Gurgaon