Gestational Diabetes Overview
Florida obstetricians at All About Women discuss the risk of diabetes during pregnancy, and how to combat it, for a healthy pregnancy
Gestational diabetes effects up to 10% of pregnancies in the United States, but with recently documented rises in diabetes cases throughout the country, this number may very well go up in the coming years. Find out what risk factors may make you more likely to develop this condition, how to recognize the symptoms, and how doctors treat women with gestational diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes Risk Factors
If you aren't yet pregnant, you can help alleviate your gestational diabetes risk by combating at least a few of these risk factors. If you are already pregnant, knowing the facts can help you prepare and take the necessary precautions.
As with any condition, family history is generally a good indicator of your risk for gestational diabetes. Pre-pregnancy weight is also a factor, although generally more so for overweight women. Gestational diabetes is one of many pregnancy conditions that can be exacerbated by high blood pressure, and is also more common in women over the age of 25.
Previous pregnancies can also predict gestational diabetes risk. Women who have previously given birth to children with birth defects or a high birth weight have a higher chance of developing this condition, as do women who have had a miscarriage or stillbirth with no apparent cause.
Recognizing the Symptoms
Some symptoms of gestational diabetes are easy to recognize. Others pose more difficulty because they so closely mimic the symptoms you may already be experiencing during pregnancy.
Nausea and vomiting, for example, and a more frequent and/or urgent need to urinate may already be your constant companions during your pregnancy. Fatigue fits into this category as well. If you notice any of these symptoms becoming more prevalent — especially if you already have any of the above risk factors — there may be cause for concern.
If, on the other hand, you begin to experience blurry vision or find yourself unusually thirsty, this is likely not a normal part of pregnancy, and should be reported to your OB/GYN or Nurse Midwife immediately.
Weight loss during pregnancy is always a concern, and when it is paired with an increased appetite, may indicate gestational diabetes. Frequent infections during pregnancy may be another warning sign.
Most women with gestational diabetes go on to have successful pregnancies. You can increase the chances of a positive outcome for you and your child by alerting your OB/GYN or Nurse Midwife as soon as you become aware of the signs, and following his or her instructions to the letter.
Common Gestational Diabetes Treatments and Precautions
The main goal of gestational diabetes treatments is to keep your blood sugar levels stable. This can often be accomplished through dietary and lifestyle changes. When this approach fails, insulin treatment is usually the next option.
To keep both your blood sugar and blood pressure levels in check, you will need to limit the amount of fat and processed sugar you consume, as well as stick to healthy sources of protein. For carbohydrate consumption, choose fruits, vegetables, breads and grains. Fruit should also be your primary source of sugar. Augment healthy eating with a light, physician-approved exercise program and you may be able to avoid insulin treatments.
In addition to lifestyle changes, your OB/GYN or Nurse Midwife will closely monitor your baby using a fetal heart monitor and a number of other methods. Any changes in the baby's heart rate or activity level could signify the need to take further precautions.
For most women, lifestyle changes and proper monitoring of the fetus can adequately keep gestational diabetes in check. When the condition goes undiagnosed or progresses too far, however, the baby may be quite large at the time of birth, causing delivery complications. The mother and child's blood sugar should also be monitored for a time following birth so that any issues related to the gestational diabetes can be found and dealt with quickly.‹ All About Women OB/GYN Knowledge Center