There are more than 1 million cases of Gestational Diabetes in India. As published in TOI, 10% of pregnant women in India are at a risk of Gestational Diabetes. (1) With numbers reaching to 35% in Punjab and 41% in Lucknow. And not to forget India is the diabetes capital in the world, so GDM naturally becomes a cause of concern.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational Diabetes is basically high blood sugar in pregnant women. It happens when the placental hormones lead to an increase in blood sugar. Your pancreas makes insulin to deal with an increase in blood sugar levels but if it’s not able to then the mother will suffer from Gestational Diabetes. It’s basically glucose intolerance in the body of pregnant women.
When you eat, the insulin is responsible to make sure that the energy in the form of glucose reaches to the cells in our body. Placental hormones disrupt this function of insulin and completely counteracts the function of insulin in your cells. These hormones increase throughout the pregnancy and by the second half of pregnancy, they put the health of the baby at risk. Gestational Diabetes develops in the second half of the pregnancy in almost all the cases. (2)
All the hormones including HCG have been proven to decrease the function of insulin-mediated glucose disposal in humans. Even in a normal pregnancy that decrease can be as high as 50%.
How can you prevent it?
Having an overweight BMI can cause several complications during pregnancy apart from Gestational Diabetes that include an increased risk in C-section, having an overweight baby etc. Obesity can also interfere with your fertility. Therefore, it’s very important that you maintain a healthy BMI to avoid any complications. (3)
Eating more fiber can help reduce GDM risk. It has been scientifically proven that increasing your fiber intake by 10g/day decreases your risk of developing Gestational Diabetes by 26% and increasing fiber in your diet by 5g/day can reduce GDM risk by around 23%-26%. It was also proven that a diet with lower fiber intake and higher Glycemic load would put the mother at higher risk of GDM. (4) Fiber rich foods include whole grains like oats, wheat etc., lentils, broccoli, fruits especially prunes, nuts etc.
Increase your protein intake. Protein rich foods are naturally low in GI. So, stock up on fish, lentils, beans, meats etc. Pregnant women should include at least 70 grams of protein in her diet daily.
Include fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet.
Avoid foods such as white potatoes, all purpose flour a.k.a maida, white rice etc.
What puts you at more risk of developing Gestational Diabetes?
Maternal Obesity is direct to an increase in risk of Gestational diabetes.(5)
Age of the mother at the time of Gestation matter too. With the risk increasing by the age of 25 and fueling up even more after the age of 35. (6)
Family History: If your parents or any close siblings have diabetes, you are naturally at a higher risk because of the genes. Even though the effect of our genes can be controlled by a good diet, a sugary drink will definitely amplify your risk of having GDM than to someone whose family history is free of Diabetes.
If you are an American Indian, Hispanic/Latina, African-American or Asian-American then your chances of having GDM increases too.
If you have suffered from GDM, stillbirth or had a large baby, then your chances of having GDM in this pregnancy increases too. (7)
If you suffer from insulin related issues that include PCOS, have heart disease, already had diabetes at a point in your life, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
In which month of pregnancy, will I be diagnosed with Gestational diabetes?
You are tested for Gestational Diabetes in between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy only if you don’t have a higher risk of GDM and haven’t been diagnosed with Diabetes before. If any one of the latter is true, then you might be tested during your first prenatal visit.
The testing for Gestational Diabetes is done in 2 stages. In the first stage, you don’t have to stop drinking or eating anything. When you go for the test, you will be given a solution with 50 grams of sugar in it. Your blood sample is taken an hour later to examine the blood sugar levels. A blood sugar level less than 130-140 mg/dL is considered okay. If, however, your sugar level is higher then you would have to go for the second stage of the test.
In the follow-up testing, you have to fast overnight (around 8 hours) and take a blood sugar test. Once that is done, you will again drink a syrupy solution (100 grams sugar) following which, your blood sugar level will be measured every hour for the next three hours. If two out of three samples are high in blood sugar levels, you will be diagnosed with GDM.
What if it comes back positive?
If the test for GDM comes back positive, you will definitely be asked to maintain a healthy diet and sometimes, get insulin shots.
Your doctor will check your blood pressure at every checkup and your frequency of checkups might increase too. Some doctors also recommend that you do continuous fetal monitoring and home blood sugar tests.
The treatment actually differs a lot based on how high your blood sugar levels are. You will be asked to get your blood sugar levels tested during postpartum too as GDM puts you at a higher risk of diabetes mellitus later in life.
What are the risks of Gestational Diabetes to the mother?
Gestational Diabetes increases the mother’s risk of developing diabetes within 5-10 years by 3-7 times. (8)
GDM also increases chances of C-section as diabetes does pose a risk during delivery and the process might need to speed up a little.
What are the risks of Gestational Diabetes to the baby?
Overweight Baby: You might wish for a chubby and heavy baby but the truth is an overweight baby comes with its complications too including increasing the risk of C-section, assisted delivery leading to birth injuries etc. When your body produces extra glucose, it crosses the placenta, which in turn signals the baby’s pancreas to start making more insulin. This can cause the baby to grow in size.
Low Blood sugar level: A baby born to a mother with high insulin generally has low blood sugar levels and needs constant monitoring after birth for a while. Low Blood Sugar Level or Hypoglycemia could trigger seizures in the baby. Seizures in an infant is a newborn red flag and should be reported to the doctor immediately.
Premature Baby: Lungs of babies whose mothers have GDM might suffer from respiratory distress syndrome resulting in respiratory problems in the baby. Also, these babies are more at risk of neonatal jaundice.
Increase in Diabetes Risk Later in Life: Obesity is a common complication with these babies and so is an increase in the risk of Diabetes later in life.
Other complications that are rare but can happen are a stillbirth, learning disability and low Calcium and Magnesium levels.
Don’t forget that most women (more than half) go on to deliver healthy babies and do lead a healthy life after delivery. So, don’t stress yourself too much on it. We know it’s easier said than done. But, stressing too much will do no good to you or your baby too.
Indulging yourself might not be so easy for you now. Not to worry, we have a solution for your sweet tooth, try these 13 HEALTHY *HOME-MADE* DESSERTS TO SATISFY YOUR PREGNANCY *SWEET TOOTH*
Do tell us and the Toothless community about your story of Gestational Diabetes. Every experience matters to us and the expectant parents reading this. So, do share it in the Comments section below.