- The placenta is responsible for ensuring that nutrients regularly reach your growing little one. To do so, the placenta secretes hormones that can affect several of your body’s functions, including your blood sugar levels.
- In some women, the body either stops producing enough insulin or has difficulty in using the insulin properly. When this happens, the condition is known as gestational diabetes.
- You may be more at risk for developing gestational diabetes if you’re over 35 years old, have had it in a previous pregnancy and have an increased level of abdominal fat.
- You can help reduce your chance of developing gestational diabetes by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
- Immediately after your little one is born, gestational diabetes typically goes away. Unfortunately, in five to 10 percent of women, the condition develops into type two diabetes.
You may have heard from family and friends about the “dreaded” glucose test that you will take toward the end of your second trimester. While many women don’t enjoy taking the test (it involves drinking a very sweet drink!), it’s an important part of a healthy pregnancy and delivering a healthy baby.
Why Glucose Levels Spike During Pregnancy
When you’re pregnant, your body forms a placenta, which is responsible for ensuring that nutrients regularly reach your growing little one. In order to keep your baby growing, the placenta secretes hormones that allow it to affect several of your body’s functions, which includes its blood sugar levels. The placenta tries to channel as much blood sugar to your growing little one as possible.
Your pancreas is responsible for releasing insulin that regulates your blood sugar levels. Most of the time, the placenta continues to do its job through pregnancy, keeping blood sugar levels from going too high or too low. In some women, the body either stops producing enough insulin or has difficulty in using the insulin properly. When this happens, the condition is known as gestational diabetes.
What You Need to Know About Gestational Diabetes
You are more likely to develop gestational diabetes if:
- You are overweight (defined as having a body mass index of 30 or more)
- You have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- You are over the age of 35
- You have an increased amount of abdominal fat
- You have a close family member who has had gestational diabetes or type two diabetes
- You have had a large baby during a previous pregnancy
- You have had gestational diabetes in the past
Though you can’t always prevent gestational diabetes, you can decrease your likelihood by eating a healthy diet and exercising. Getting to your ideal weight before you get pregnant can also help decrease your chances.
Not all women experience symptoms with gestational diabetes. If you do experience symptoms, they may include:
- Increased thirst
- Unexpected weight loss
- Frequent urination
- Vaginal, skin and bladder infections
- Blurry vision
- Increased hunger
- Sugar in urine (typically found in routine office urine tests)
When you are between 24 and 28 weeks pregnant, your doctor will recommend that you receive a glucose screening test (GST) in order to test for gestational diabetes. The GST simply determines who may have a problem with their sugar levels. Those who test positive on the first test will be sent for an additional test called the glucose tolerance test (GTT). Approximately one-third of women have a false positive on their initial GST.
During the GST, the laboratory technician will have you drink a sweet drink that contains 50 grams of glucose. You must drink the entire drink within five minutes. After one hour, your blood will be drawn and tested. If your blood sugar levels come back elevated, your doctor will send you to the GTT.
The GTT is done in a similar fashion. You will be asked to fast before the test, and the glucose solution may be sweeter or you may be asked to drink more of it. Your blood will be drawn before drinking the test to determine your fasting blood sugar levels.
After drinking the glucose drink, your blood will then be drawn after one hour, after two hours and after three hours (bring a good book to read!). It will then be tested to determine how your body reacted to the sugar in the drink. If your levels are too high after the GTT, you will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you should meet with a nutritionist who can help you make a healthy eating plan. You will have to carefully balance the carbohydrates you eat with healthy fats, fiber and protein in order to prevent your blood sugar levels from spiking too high. Getting regular exercise can also help keep your blood sugar levels stable.
Sometimes a healthy diet and exercise aren’t enough for some women to keep their blood sugar levels in a “normal” range. In these cases, the doctor may recommend taking medication or injecting insulin.
It’s important to work with your doctor and nutritionist in order to keep your blood sugar levels in a healthy range. Uncontrolled gestational diabetes can increase your risk of your baby being born large, of you developing pre-eclampsia and of an early delivery.
Glucose Levels After Pregnancy
Immediately after your little one is born, your gestational diabetes will most likely go away. Unfortunately, in five to 10 percent of women, the condition turns into type two diabetes. In these cases, it is likely that the woman was pre-diabetic or had undiagnosed type two diabetes before pregnancy.
If you had gestational diabetes during pregnancy, you are more likely to develop type two diabetes in the future. Managing your weight, eating a healthy diet and exercising can help prevent you from developing the condition.
Your body has gone through some incredible changes during pregnancy as your little one has developed. If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, don’t be too hard on yourself. You can still go on to have a healthy pregnancy and baby by following your doctor’s orders and will develop the habits of a healthy lifestyle that will help after delivery and during breastfeeding.