Gestational diabetes (GD) is on the rise and depending on the country, up to 10% of all pregnant women get diagnosed with GD. The health related complications can often be very serious.
~ I must begin by letting you know that writing this article is quite difficult for me, in June 1999 my beautiful daughter was born still in the 33rd week of pregnancy – I was never tested for gestational diabetes (because it wasn’t standard practice in Germany at the time). I was tested for my second pregnancy and was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. This led my doctors and I to assume that the reason I lost my daughter was due to gestational diabetes ~
What is it?
What happens to your body when you have gestational diabetes?
Our pancreas is the organ that is responsible for producing insulin. During pregnancy, our pancreas needs to make more insulin to make sure our blood sugar does not exceed its limits. Gestational diabetes develops when our pancreas cannot make enough insulin and the glucose stays in our blood rather than going to our cells where it is used for energy and growth. As a result, the high blood sugar levels can lead to many serious complications:
– Makrosomia of the fetus (e.g. the baby can be abnormally big)
– Increased risk of infections during pregnancy
– Increased risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia)
– Increased risk of needing c-section, vacuum extraction, or forceps delivery
– Increased risk for both mother and child to develop type II diabetes later in life
– Increased risk of post-partum depression
Who is at risk for developing GD during pregnancy?
– Women who are overweight
– Women who have been diagnosed with PCOS
– Women who have been previously diagnosed with GD
– Women who are over 35
– Women with history of diabetes in their family
– Women who have received cortisone therapy during pregnancy
What are the symptoms of GD?
This is really a tough one, because GD can actually be silent or pretty much asympomatic until it is too late and or full blown.
Some symptoms are and can be:
– Frequent trips to the bathroom (but let’s face it, almost all pregnant women encounter that)
– Blurry vision
– Vaginal bleeding
– Abnormal growth of the fetus or if your baby stops growing in utero
As you can see these symptoms are all pretty vague and inconclusive, so you need to listen to your body and be aware of changes. Always contact your doctor or midwife when you feel that you have any of those symptoms. Now that you have read the signs and symptoms, let me tell you my story:
~When I got pregnant for the first time at age 27 I did not belong to any of the high risk groups, I was a healthy normal-weight first-time mom to be. I started experiencing severe headaches and a couple of weeks later, I experienced vaginal bleeding. I was then admitted to the hospital with premature contractions. At the hospital, I received medication to stop the contractions and cortisone to help the development of my baby’s lungs. Not once was my blood sugar checked and I was never tested for GD. I was discharged about a week later to go home and be on bed rest. Five weeks later, after I had been running between my OBgyn and the hospital – always complaining about reduced fetal movement and always being sent home and being told I was just overly concerned – my perfect little baby girl died. I will never really now if the reason my daughter was stillborn was due to GD, but the chances are really high. In my subsequent pregnancy the diagnosis was pretty clear.
However, I am here to tell you that Gestational Diabetes can be avoided! It can absolutely be prevented by the right diet and lifestyle. When I got pregnant for the 5th time, I was high risk for so many reasons. Advanced maternal age (I was over 40 at the time), previous diagnoses of GD, and a history of miscarriage and stillbirth. I was the typical candidate to develop GD. This time around though, I had studied both midwifery and nutrition. I knew my risks and I knew what to do so that my baby and I could stay healthy throughout the pregnancy and beyond. Even with all those risks, this was my healthiest and easiest pregnancy. My blood sugar stayed stable throughout my pregnancy, no headaches, no vaginal bleeding, no premature contractions, no medication needed, and a beautiful and easy natural birth.~
For more information you can read my upcoming articles on GD.
If there is a time in your life to take good care of yourself, pregnancy is that time. Give your baby the best start in life with the gift of health. Healthy mother – healthy baby. I wish you a happy and healthy pregnancy