Diabetes During Pregnancy
Some women are diabetic before becoming pregnant while others develop diabetes during pregnancy. Called gestational diabetes, it usually occurs after your 24th week of pregnancy. It causes abnormally high blood sugar levels in both the mother and the baby and is one of the most common health problems in pregnancy, affecting about 3 to 10 percent of expectant mothers.
Risk Associated with Diabetes During Pregnancy
Diabetes that develops during pregnancy is believed to be caused by the hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy. The hormones made in the placenta that help your baby develop can also make your body resistant to the insulin it produces. Left untreated, excess glucose causes macrosomia, which means a larger than normal baby. This can cause delivery complications as the baby may be too big to fit through the birth canal, making an episiotomy or a C-section more likely.
Other risks include preeclampsia. You’re also more likely to have a stillbirth in the last two months of pregnancy.
If you have gestational diabetes, your baby is also at risk for:
- Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, shortly after birth
- Breathing problems at birth
- Newborn jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)
Caring for Mothers with Gestational Diabetes
Changing eating habits and increasing physical activity can manage gestational diabetes. One of our nutritionists can also counsel you on eating smaller meals throughout the day and limiting carbohydrates and sugar.
Blood sugar should be monitored first thing in the morning and after each meal to determine if these changes are keeping glucose levels under control. Glucose can be monitored by a simple finger prick with a small needle. A drop of blood is entered into a blood sugar meter, which displays and records the results. If changes in diet and exercise are not enough to control blood sugar levels, oral medication or insulin shots may be needed.
Gestational diabetes usually goes away on its own within six weeks after the baby is born. However, the baby is at a greater risk of becoming obese and developing Type 2 diabetes later in life. You’re also at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and of getting gestational diabetes again in future pregnancies. Maintaining a healthy diet and staying physically active will greatly reduce these risks.