This will be one of a three part series I'm doing on gestational diabetes. It seems to a be a topic that has been coming up a lot lately in the forums/groups I belong to, and what I'm finding is that a lot of women are being told they have it or being threatened that they will develop it, but no one is really receiving proper information regarding what it is, how it's diagnosed or how to treat it.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
According to the American Diabetes Association: "Pregnant women who have never had diabetes before but who have high
blood glucose (sugar) levels during pregnancy are said to have
gestational diabetes. Based on recently announced diagnostic criteria
for gestational diabetes, it is estimated that gestational diabetes
affects 18% of pregnancies."
Basically, your growing baby needs glucose to grow. Your body errs on the side of "too much" rather than "too little" so the baby doesn't go without. As the placenta grows, the hormones it creates may interfere with your body's processing of all that glucose. This is why testing tends to be done later in the pregnancy (if no other risk factors exist) because the placenta is larger as the pregnancy progresses.
Non-Caucasian women, and women that are overweight pre-pregnancy, are likelier to develop Gestational Diabetes.You are also likelier to develop it if there is a history of diabetes, gestational or otherwise, in your family. Granted, it's not to say you WILL develop GD if you fall into any (or all) of these categories, your chances are simply greater.
Some of the risks of having Gestational Diabetes are macrosomia (baby growing too large), which could mean a broken clavicle or collarbone upon vaginal delivery, among other complications. This is why doctors are quick to induce as early as 39 weeks when the diagnosis for GD is present, or even elective c-section.
AGAIN, let me be clear...the doctor will be quick to suggest (or even insist) upon these interventions, but they may not be necessary. Also, ultrasounds are not, have never been, and are not meant for measuring your baby, and they are usually off by 1-2 pounds either way, so don't be alarmed if the doctor decides your baby weighs 10 pounds solely based on ultrasound...but that's another topic for another post.
Women that have had GD are likelier to develop Type 2 Diabetes later in life, but many of these cases are because the women studied may have had undiagnosed Type 2 Diabetes before pregnancy, and GD may not have been a factor.
Most of the time, GD can be kept under control by diet and exercise, and only in extreme cases will an insulin regimen be needed...so please, do not worry right off the bat that you will need to inject yourself several times a day until you've spoken to a specialist about the severity of your case! Stressing about it will do no one any good, though I know that is easier said than done.
On the next post, I will write about information, evidence and resources surrounding testing for Gestational Diabetes and how it is diagnosed. The last post in the series will be about treatment options. I'll also talk about my own borderline GD diagnosis during my pregnancy and what I went through as far as testing and treatment. If anyone would like to share their GD experience, whether just the testing or actual treatment if you were diagnosed, please email or comment. Also, please let me know if you have any specific questions and I will try to answer them in an upcoming post or at least point you to resources that can help.