Gestational Diabetes During Pregnancy
Gestational diabetes is a condition that develops in women during pregnancy and leads to elevated levels of glucose, or sugar, in the blood. This is due to certain hormones of pregnancy that make your body resistant to insulin. Insulin normally works to help move the glucose in food into the body’s cells to use for energy. The hormonal changes in pregnancy increase the glucose level in the blood to make it more available to the baby, but in most women, levels stay within the normal range due to increases in insulin production. However, some women become so insulin resistant, that glucose levels remain elevated above the normal range. This is gestational diabetes.
Why Do We Worry About Gestational Diabetes?
Babies exposed to too much glucose in utero can become too large (called “macrosomia”), which increases risks during delivery such as for birth injury and need for cesarean. After birth, these babies have an increased risk for respiratory difficulty, hypoglycemia (low blood glucose), and jaundice. Additionally, mothers with gestational diabetes are at increased risk to develop hypertension and preeclampsia.
What Can You Do?
The good news is that with proper screening and treatment these risks can be significantly reduced. Normally, the screening test for gestational diabetes is performed around 24-28 weeks gestation. However, in some higher risk women, an earlier screening may be recommended. If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, following a diabetic diet is the major key to controlling your blood sugar. A low carbohydrate diet is best, and consultation with a nutritionist to guide you in the proper foods to eat is recommended. Occasionally, despite proper diet, some women do require medications to help control their blood sugar levels. Monitoring levels four times daily, or as advised by your physician, is very important to determine whether glucose levels are in the normal range. This may seem cumbersome, but it is important to remember it is temporary and all for the health of your growing baby. The gestational diabetes will almost always resolve after birth, but you should have a screening test about 6-12 weeks postpartum. Women with a history of gestational diabetes are at an increased risk for developing diabetes in the future.
Managing Gestational Diabetes in NJ
At New Jersey Perinatal Associates, we are experts in managing and monitoring pregnancies with gestational diabetes. If you have any questions contact us at (973) 322-5287.