What Every Mom-to-Be Should Know About Gestational Diabetes

Photo: The Bump Photo: The Bump

When I heard about the 13.47-pound baby born in Germany last month, I instinctively did a Kegel exercise in sympathy for the mother who delivered the giant bundle of joy vaginally. You may be wondering how a mother can grow a baby that size? Such an anomaly is usually the result of undetected gestational diabetes, a condition that can put mother and baby at risk.

A few things you should know about gestational diabetes:

  • The condition usually develops around 21-25 weeks gestation. A standard oral glucose tolerance test between 24 and 28 weeks helps to evaluate your risk.
  • Many women who develop GD have no appreciable symptoms. Those who do may experience fatigue, increased thirst, blurred vision, increased urination, and nausea and vomiting. Since those symptoms are often common to pregnancy in general, they may not go unnoticed.
  • You are at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes if you were overweight before pregnancy, have high blood pressure, have a family history of diabetes, have high amniotic fluid volumes, are older than 25 when you become pregnant, have had a history of unexplained miscarriage or stillbirth or have previously given birth to a baby larger than 9 pounds.
  • If high blood glucose levels are detected in the oral test, follow-up tests will ensue to confirm the diagnosis.
  • Having gestational diabetes increases maternal risk of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy, and increases baby’s risk of trauma during birth due to the increased size. The baby is more likely to have low blood sugar in the first week of life and is may be at higher risk of becoming obese as a child and diabetic as an adult.

If you are diagnosed with GD, don’t despair; most cases are easily controlled with diet and exercise. You will be asked to limit your carbohydrate intake to only whole grains and complex carbs, eliminating simple sugars found in soft drinks, sweets and the sweeter fruits. White breads, potatoes and white pasta should be limited, replacing them instead with the whole-grain counterparts. In rare instances, medication is required to control blood sugar levels. Exercising for at least 20 minutes 3 times a weeks has been shown to help control GD.

Blood sugar levels in moms who develop GD usually return to normal immediately after childbirth. However, women who develop GD are at higher risk of developing Type II diabetes within 5-10 years after giving birth. Sticking to a healthy, carb-conscious diet and a regular exercise regimen during and after pregnancy can reduce the risk of developing diabetes for years to come.

Did you exercise during your pregnancy? If so, what did you do?

Plus, more from The Bump:

Your Guide to Prenatal Tests and Doctors Visits

When Should I Have My First OB Appointment?

What’s the Typical OB Appointment Schedule?