Diabetes is often diagnosed in women during their childbearing years. Poor control of diabetes during pregnancy increases the chances of birth defects and other problems for the baby. It can also cause serious complications for the mother. Therefore it is important to have proper healthcare before and during the pregnancy to help prevent any unwanted outcome.
Diabetes is a condition in which the body cannot use the sugars and starches (carbohydrates) it takes in as food to make energy.
The body either makes no insulin or too little insulin or cannot use the insulin it makes to change those sugars and starches into energy. As a result, extra sugar builds up in the blood.
The three most common types of diabetes are:
- Type 1 Diabetes: The pancreas makes no insulin or so little insulin that the body cannot use blood sugar for energy. Type 1 diabetes must be controlled with daily insulin.
- Type 2 Diabetes: The body either makes too little insulin or cannot the insulin it makes to use blood sugar for energy. Sometimes type 2 diabetes can be controlled through eating a proper diet and exercising regularly. Many with diabetes type 2 have to take diabetes pills, insulin or both.
- Gestational Diabetes: Type 3 or gestational diabetes, is a type of diabetes that is first seen in a pregnant woman who did not have diabetes before she was pregnant. Often gestational diabetes can be controlled through eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Sometimes a woman with gestational diabetes must also take insulin.
For most women with gestational diabetes, the diabetes goes away soon after delivery. Even if the diabetes does go away after the baby is born, half of all women who had gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes later.
Some women have more than one pregnancy affected by gestational diabetes.
Doctors most often test for it between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy.
Problems of Gestational Diabetes in Pregnancy
1. An extra large baby. Diabetes that is not well controlled causes the baby’s blood sugar to be high. The baby is “overfed” and grows extra large. The mother might need a C-section to deliver the baby.
2. High blood pressure.
3. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). People with diabetes medications can develop blood sugar that is too low. Low blood sugar can be very serious, and even fatal, if not treated quickly. If a woman’s diabetes was not well controlled during pregnancy, her baby can very quickly develop low blood sugar after birth.
5 Tips for mothers with gestational diabetes
1. Eat healthy foods – Eat healthy foods from a meal plan made for a person with diabetes. A dietitian can help you create a healthy meal plan.
2. Exercise regularly – Exercise is a good way to keep blood sugar under control. It helps to balance food intake.
3. Monitor blood sugar often – Check your blood sugar often, as directed by your doctor.
4. Take insulin, if needed – Sometimes a woman with gestational diabetes must take insulin. Occasionally babies exposed to uncontrolled sugar in the first three months can develop fetal abnormalities like spina bifida and heart anomalies.
5. Get tested for diabetes after pregnancy – Get tested for diabetes 6 to 12 weeks after your baby is born, and then every 1 to 3 years.