Gestational diabetes is one of the most common medical complications of pregnancy. This disease affects 1% to 35% of pregnant women worldwide. (1)
Gestational diabetes causes high blood sugar levels that can affect your pregnancy and your baby’s health.
Gestational diabetes increases the risk of obstetric problems such as pre-eclampsia, cesarean section, and preterm delivery. Additionally, women and babies affected by gestational diabetes are at increased future risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
While any pregnancy complication is concerning, there is good news. Pregnant women can manage gestational diabetes by eating healthy foods, exercising, and, if necessary, taking medications.
Keep reading to learn what gestational diabetes is, the causes, symptoms, how it is treated, and what you should eat in these cases.
What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes (GD) is diabetes that is first diagnosed during pregnancy (gestation).
Like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes affects how cells use blood sugar (glucose).
In women with gestational diabetes, blood sugar rises too high during pregnancy and generally returns to normal shortly after delivery.
However, this can affect your baby’s health and increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later. In these cases, controlling blood sugar is essential to keep your baby healthy and prevent a difficult delivery.
Gestational diabetes symptoms
Women with gestational diabetes usually have no symptoms or can attribute them to pregnancy. Most of them find out they have it during a routine exam.
If you experience symptoms, they are likely to be mild. Some symptoms are:
- blurry vision
- but excessive
- excessive hunger
- the extreme urge to urinate
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Causes and risk factors
Researchers are still unsure why some women have gestational diabetes, and others do not. However, hormones are known to work to keep blood sugar levels in check.
When you are pregnant, your body produces higher hormones, such as human placental lactogen (hPL) and other hormones that increase insulin resistance. These hormones affect the placenta and help maintain the pregnancy.
If insulin resistance becomes too strong, your blood glucose levels may rise abnormally. Ultimately this can cause gestational diabetes.
Other risk factors that can be causes of gestational diabetes:
- Overweight and obesity.
- Lack of physical activity.
- Genetics – Previous diabetes in a direct relative.
- Previously gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
- Ethnic group
Complications that can affect your baby
Poorly managed gestational diabetes can have
harmful consequences for both mother and baby.
A relationship has been established between maternal obesity and diabetes and a greater predisposition of the child to develop diabetes during youth, producing a vicious cycle in which obesity and diabetes lead
to more diabetes. (1)
Gestational diabetes has been shown to increase the risk of obstetric problems, such as pre-eclampsia and shoulder dystocia. This is probably because they are larger babies.
The DG indicates a significant risk of future maternal diabetes and cardiovascular disease regarding long-term risks. Also, if the baby is born premature, it can lead to lung problems and jaundice.
If you have untreated, gestational diabetes, your baby may be at higher risk for the following complications:
- Excessive birth weight.
- Early (premature) delivery.
- Breathing difficulties.
- Obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.
- Life risk
- Shoulder dystocia
- Metabolic syndrome
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How is gestational diabetes treated?
If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, your treatment plan will depend on several factors. It is of great importance that through the evaluation of your doctor, you arrive at the most appropriate treatment.
Women with class A1 gestational diabetes can control it through diet and exercise. Those who have class A2 need insulin or other medications.
In most cases, your doctor will recommend that you monitor your blood sugar before and after meals and manage your condition by eating healthy and exercising regularly.
If your doctor recommends monitoring your blood sugar levels, a unique glucose monitoring device may be provided.
If you need insulin injections until you give birth, ask your doctor about the proper timing of insulin injections during meals to avoid hypoglycemia.
What should I eat if I have gestational diabetes? – Diet
A balanced diet is a key to managing gestational diabetes properly. In particular, women with gestational diabetes should pay special attention to the intake of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
In addition, eating sparsely (for example, every two hours) can also help you control your blood sugar levels. In no case should you not eat for more than 8 hours.
Basic rules in a diet for gestational diabetes:
On a gestational diabetes diet, carbohydrates are the items that should receive the most attention.
Eating carbohydrate-rich foods sparingly will help prevent blood sugar spikes.
Your doctor or nutritionist will help you determine exactly how many carbohydrates to eat per day and which ones are the best quality.
As a general rule, it can be said that whole grains: cereals, rice, vegetables, and legumes, are the foods with carbohydrates that should predominate.
Pregnant women should eat at least two to three servings of protein daily. Choose high-quality protein whenever possible.
The best proteins provide a complete amino acid profile and are absorbed quickly. These are called proteins of high biological value .
Some examples are lean meats (poultry and fish), skim milk, and eggs. However, you can also combine vegetable proteins to obtain the same results, for example, legumes and rice.
If you have gestational diabetes, you should not eliminate fats from your diet but choose good quality fats.
Fats are essential for your baby’s brain and eye development. Fats also help the placenta and other tissues grow, and even some fats can help prevent preterm labor.
The healthy fats to incorporate into your diet are vegetable oils (olive, canola, coconut), nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish, or fish oil.
Gestational diabetes is a condition that occurs when women increase their blood glucose levels during pregnancy.
The causes are unclear, although they are generally attributed to hormonal changes, being overweight, and lack of physical activity.
The consequences or complications of gestational diabetes are problems in childbirth, a greater probability of having type 2 diabetes, and respiratory tract conditions, among others.
Controlling the sugar levels during pregnancy is essential to avoid health problems for both mother and baby.