Everything You Need to Know About Gestational Diabetes

Like any new parent-to-be, you undoubtedly want the best for your baby. Part of achieving this is understanding and addressing any health issues you or your baby may encounter during pregnancy.

It wouldn't surprise us if you had already heard about gestational diabetes but are unsure as to what it is. Today's Piper Finn blog is intended as a guide for new parents-to-be who want to understand what gestational diabetes is, what causes it, the risks it can pose to the pregnancy, and how to manage it.

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a condition that may occur during pregnancy. It is characterized by high sugar levels in the mother's blood because her body cannot produce sufficient insulin to regulate them.

What is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone that aids with the absorption of sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream to provide the body with energy. When a woman is pregnant, her hormones can interfere with the body's proper use of insulin, thus resulting in gestational diabetes.

Causes of Gestational Diabetes

The cause of gestational diabetes remains unclear, but certain factors can increase a mother's risk of developing the condition. These include being overweight or obese, having a family history of type 2 diabetes, being older than 25, or having gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy. Hormonal imbalances during pregnancy can also cause insulin resistance and lead to gestational diabetes.

Risks of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes can pose serious risks to both the mother and the baby if left untreated. Some of these risks include preeclampsia, premature birth or having a large baby resulting in an increased risk of requiring a caesarean section.

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a little tricky to spot at home. In fact, many women only know they have the condition when their blood sugar levels are tested. However, in some cases where sugar levels become too high (hyperglycemia), the following symptoms may become evident:

  • Excessive tiredness
  • Blurry vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased thirst (unquenchable)
  • Frequent need to pee
  • Thrush/genital itching

Of course, some of these symptoms are common during pregnancy, but if you are worried, it's best to speak to your midwife or healthcare provider. If they suspect you may have gestational diabetes, they can request the relevant gestational diabetes test (blood test) required to make a proper diagnosis.

Managing Gestational Diabetes

Thankfully gestational diabetes is treatable. Managing gestational diabetes starts with regularly monitoring blood sugar levels. This monitoring can be done by conducting regular blood sugar tests at home and keeping your healthcare and midwife appointments.

A registered dietitian can assist with developing a meal plan that controls blood sugar levels while ensuring adequate nutrition for both mother and baby.

Physical exercise during pregnancy can also help manage gestational diabetes. Insulin therapy may sometimes be required to control blood sugar levels adequately.

Final Thoughts

Gestational diabetes doesn't have to be a scary concept for parents, as it is treatable. Understanding the signs, causes, risks, and management strategies makes this condition entirely manageable and not something to fear. In fact, with the help of a knowledgeable healthcare team, women with gestational diabetes can give birth to healthy babies.

If you think you are at risk of developing gestational diabetes or have previously had it and are planning another pregnancy, discuss the risks with your healthcare provider, who can create an appropriate care plan. Remember, early detection and proper management are critical in ensuring a safe and healthy outcome for both you and your baby.

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