Gestational Diabetes Explained: Causes, Risks, And Treatment

During certain points in your pregnancy, you’ll have an appointment with your OBGYN to test for gestational diabetes. This pregnancy condition is unique in that it is only experienced until the baby is carried to term. Not only that, a woman who may experience gestational diabetes during her pregnancy has risk of developing gestational diabetes in future pregnancies. It also confers a 50% risk of developing regular diabetes later in life. 

What is gestational diabetes?

This type of diabetes is a form of high blood sugar that occurs only during pregnancy. Their blood sugar is usually normal before conception and will return to normal after the birth. The treatment for this type of diabetes is the traditional route to controlling blood sugar: changes to lifestyle and eating habits and sometimes medication. It is recommended to deliver a baby between 38-40 weeks when gestational diabetes occurs. Waiting longer than this can cause poor outcomes in babies. 

How does gestational diabetes develop?

Pregnancy is a time of a woman’s life where she naturally becomes more insulin-resistant. The reason that the body becomes more insulin resistant during pregnancy is to ensure that the placenta can deliver all the necessary nutrients to a growing baby. 

Insulin regulates your metabolism by absorbing glucose into the tissues and muscles of the body. By becoming insulin-resistant during pregnancy, your body will properly divert the nutrients to the placenta.

Gestational diabetes develops from this natural insulin-resistance when the pancreas is still making insulin, but just not quite enough to normalize the fluctuating blood sugars. 

What are the risk factors?

While gestational diabetes can typically strike anyone, there are certain risk factors associated with it, they are:

  • Obesity
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Prior diagnosis of gestational diabetes
  • Age at time of conception
  • Sedentary lifestyle

It is worth mentioning that there is a higher incidence of gestational diabetes found in Latinas, African Americans, and Native Americans who have any of the above risk factors.

Why does it resolve after pregnancy?

Think of gestational diabetes in terms of the pancreas producing insufficient insulin. The organ tries to pump out enough to overcome the insulin-resistance brought on by pregnancy, putting it in a state of stress. When you deliver, the pancreas is no longer under dire pressure from the body to produce what it doesn’t have enough of! 

How is gestational diabetes diagnosed? 

Between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy, you will have an appointment with your OBGYN where you are given a sweet beverage and asked to wait for a short period of time. After the period of time has passed, your blood sugar will be measured. If your results show a high blood sugar, you will either receive a diagnosis from your doctor or return for a longer version of the test (if your numbers fall within a lower range that require further testing). Some women who have risk factors may be screened at both the beginning of pregnancy and again between 24-28 weeks.

How is gestational diabetes treated?

As mentioned above, the treatment of gestational diabetes is akin to how blood sugars are controlled through diet and lifestyle changes. While your healthcare provider should be the one to provide you with accurate information, here is what they are likely to touch upon:

Diet

  • Avoid sugary foods such as candy, cookies, and soft drinks. 
  • Eat small portions of fruit, as it is high in natural sugar.
  • Eat smaller portions of carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, cereals, bread, etc.
  • Eat smaller meals at shorter intervals throughout the day.
  • Increase proteins and fats. These will not only NOT raise blood sugar, but will help lower hunger in between meals.

Monitoring

  • You’ll be instructed on how to use a home blood sugar monitor and log your sugars every day.
  • Your healthcare provider will be able to show you how to properly monitor your blood sugar. 
  • Monitoring is crucial to ensuring you have control of your blood sugar. 
  • Good control of sugars leads to better outcomes for babies

Insulin

  • For a minority of women with gestational diabetes, making changes to their diet is not enough to control their blood sugars, and insulin or oral medication may be prescribed by their healthcare provider.

We Care About Your Health!

At Women’s Healthcare Associates we have a goal to provide you with one of the best experiences in women’s care in the greater Amarillo area. Our professional Staff offers personal care that focuses on the health and well-being of our patients as individuals. Our Services include comprehensive healthcare specialized just for women, prenatal and pregnancy care, digital mammography, bone density screening, ultrasound, contraception, menopause and more. For more information about how our comprehensive women’s healthcare can help you, please give us a call at (806) 355-6330.

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Women’s Healthcare Associates

1301 S Coulter St # 300
Amarillo, TX 79106

Phone: (806) 355-6330

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© Women'Healthcare Associates 2017 - All rights reserved
Website design and marketing by UCI Digital