- What is gestational diabetes, and what causes it?
- Am I at risk of having gestational diabetes?
- What could happen to me if I have gestational diabetes?
- How do I know if I have gestational diabetes?
- Routine screening for gestational diabetes
- I have gestational diabetes; what do I do?
- What can you do if you are in the risk category for developing gestational diabetes?
Most of the cases of diabetes during pregnancy are due to gestational pregnancy (diabetes that starts during pregnancy) although many women have type 1 or type 2 diabetes while pregnant.
Pregnancy is supposed to be a very happy time, especially for couples expecting a baby. However, it can also be a potentially dangerous time for the woman and the baby – health-wise.
She may develop unhealthy appetites and bad habits due to biological changes in her body during pregnancy.
This makes pregnancy a risky endeavor, one of such health risks of pregnancy is gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes affects roughly about 1% to 14% of pregnant women, depending on the location and can cause complications in pregnancy and childbirth.
We are going to answer some questions about this type of diabetes in this article.
What is gestational diabetes, and what causes it?
Gestational diabetes is a type of metabolic disorder that develops during pregnancy, where the pregnant woman develops glucose intolerance. This is because the body may find it difficult to control blood sugar levels during pregnancy.
Scientists believe that hormones in the placenta like human placental growth hormone, and other chemicals like tumor necrosis factor (TNF) secreted by the placenta are partially responsible for the increased insulin resistance seen in pregnant women.
Insulin resistance is a situation where the cells of the body do not respond well to insulin, which is a hormone that controls blood glucose levels in the body.
When body cells become resistant to insulin during pregnancy, and the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to overcome this resistance, it will lead to gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is more likely in obese women who tend to have a higher insulin resistance before pregnancy, and the incidence of gestational diabetes has “coincidentally increased” with an increase in obesity among women.
This type of diabetes usually occurs somewhere between mid-pregnancy and the third trimester of pregnancy.
Am I at risk of having gestational diabetes?
If you fall into some of these categories, you are at risk. The more these descriptions apply to you, the higher your risk.
Risk factors include:
- You have a blood relative with diabetes.
- Twin pregnancy.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome.
- Ethnicity may play a role.
What could happen to me if I have gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes can be managed and will most likely stop after you give birth. However, it has been linked to a number of risks.
- One of the most common risks for diabetic mothers is macrosomia. This is a situation where you give birth to a big baby (birth weight over 4kg). Sometimes, the baby can be so big that you may need to do a cesarean section to avoid damage to your vagina during childbirth.
- There is also the risk of hypertension during pregnancy, which can be fatal if not controlled. This could lead to preeclampsia and eclampsia. On the long-term, women who have gestational diabetes could come down with type 2 diabetes 5-10 years later.
- There is an increased risk of long-term health issues, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. There is also the risk of their children having obesity in the long term.
How do I know if I have gestational diabetes?
It is always important to monitor your blood sugar. You can go for medical checkups where the doctor will detect if you have gestational diabetes.
Some red lights are if you have had gestational diabetes before or you have given birth to big babies before or if you have abnormally high blood sugar levels.
Routine screening for gestational diabetes
Initial glucose challenge test
You will drink a syrupy glucose solution. One hour later, you will have a blood test to measure your blood sugar level.
A blood sugar level below 130 to 140 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 7.2 to 7.8 millimoles per liter (mmol/L), is usually considered normal on a glucose challenge test, although this may vary by clinic or lab.
If your blood sugar level is higher than normal, it only means you have a higher risk of gestational diabetes. You will need a glucose tolerance test to determine if you have the condition.
Follow-up glucose tolerance testing
(Also known as the oral glucose tolerance test). You will fast overnight, then have your blood sugar level measured. Then you will drink another sweet solution — this one containing a higher concentration of glucose — and your blood sugar level will be checked every hour for three hours.
If at least two of the blood sugar readings are higher than average, you’ll be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
I have gestational diabetes; what do I do?
If your doctor says you have gestational diabetes, you do not have to worry, as it can be managed. In fact, its management is similar to type 2 diabetes with little differences.
First is a combination of self-monitoring of blood glucose, and changes to diet and exercise. You may want to reduce the number of carbs and sugar you take in to ease the pressure on the insulin in your body.
Continuous glucose monitoring will help evaluate your success so far. If these measures do not work, you may be given insulin to help control your blood sugar. Insulin is preferred in pregnancy as it does not cross your placenta, so it will not harm your baby.
Other drugs being used off-label are metformin and glyburide. Glyburide does not pass through the placenta; hence, your baby is safe. However, one side effect is weight gain, and so, it may not be too nice for already obese women.
Metformin, on the other hand, is in category B of pregnancy in drugs. This means there is no proof that it hurts babies in pregnant women despite its long history of use in pregnant women with polycystic ovary syndrome. It also tends to cause weight loss.
This is why it may be ideal for obese women. However, insulin is the mainstream treatment, although there is growing evidence that gestational diabetes may be linked to vitamin D deficiency.
What can you do if you are in the risk category for developing gestational diabetes?
There are seven things you can start to do right now before you get pregnant.
1) Make a decision
If you have high blood sugar levels, higher than the optimal of 83-87 mg/dl, consider postponing any pregnancy until this is under control via contraception.
The big key is really reversing high blood sugar levels now before you get pregnant to avoid gestational diabetes.
There are many ways to do this, and you will need a multi-faceted approach that involves diet changes, exercise, and supplements. Commit to doing this; your efforts will come back to you in exponential rewards.
2) Diet changes are imminent
We All Have to Start Somewhere. Begin making one simple weekly change to improve your diet. Choose from any of the following changes to make:
- Eliminate high fructose corn syrup beverages and foods.
- Reduce and then finally eliminate any foods with sugar.
- Eat enough protein for your body weight. That amount is based on the calculation of your body weight divided by two. This number gives you the number of grams of protein you will need for the day.
- Read up on the Glycemic Index.
- Replace oils such as canola oil, vegetable oil, soy oil, and safflower oil with olive oil and coconut oil. These oils disrupt cell membrane function, which can be the start of all different types of illnesses.
- Go organic.
- Change your protein servings to grass-fed meats and ones where the animals and poultry are raised without antibiotics and chemicals and eat non-GMO feed. If the animal eats GMO foods, these foods end up causing damage in your body, too.
- Begin eating fermented foods, but do it slowly. Add one serving – 1/3 cup kimchee or sauerkraut (not canned but in a glass bottle) every other day to start and then daily. Count it as one serving vegetable. Incorporate kefir milk or yogurt (sugar-free) the other days of the week.
- Eat a minimum of 10 fruits and vegetables per day – plus take a fruit, vegetable, and berry supplement for an extra 5-12 servings. This is easy when you know that only one half cup grapefruit juice is equal to one serving and ½ large apple equals another serving. A half cup cooked vegetables are one serving while a whole cup of raw vegetables is equal to one serving.
- Eat three servings fish per week, but be careful in your selection of fish. Avoid high mercury fish, as these will harm both you and your future baby. When you are pregnant, reduce your fish servings to only one 3-4 ounce serving every 7-10 days.
- Drink at least 2 quarts water daily to flush toxins from the body.
3) Herbs are a great blood sugar aid
You can take a variety of supplements to lower your blood sugar. Berberine is a Chinese herb that has been used to treat diabetics for many years. You can purchase these as pills to take as a supplement.
Chromium and magnesium have both been proven to lower blood sugar. You can get both of these minerals from your food, but you may need to supplement if you cannot get enough in your diet.
Cinnamon extract is another supplement that has been shown to lower blood sugar. Research has consistently demonstrated that 1-6 grams of cinnamon can regulate blood sugar and improve metabolic health.
These powerful herbs are synergistically combined in Ben’s Glyco-Optimizer. This all-natural supplement is packed full of powerful herbs, minerals, vitamins, and nutrients – each of which has been proven in double-blind, independent scientific studies to help cure type 2 diabetes.
4) Don’t neglect exercise
Exercise daily. If you are under super high-stress levels, then walking is your best choice of physical activity.
It won’t act as trauma and raise cortisol levels. Aim for 20-30 minutes daily about an hour after you eat a meal.
5) Emotional Stability is Necessary
Keep an even keel emotionally. Emotional upsets will play havoc with your body’s nervous system and hormones.
6) Consider Environmental Issues
Reduce your electromagnetic fields (EMF) and dirty electricity. High EMF and dirty electricity are tied to high blood sugar levels.
Some researchers call the elevated blood sugar levels from the environmental pollution diabetes type 3.
Reducing the EMF has to do with choosing to hardwire connections for your internet and avoiding wifi at all costs. Dirty electricity has to do with faulty electrical wiring and appliances that send out too many voltage transients, the experts say.
Look up an EMF specialist who can evaluate your home for these problems. They can mean the difference between continuing with diabetes forever and stopping it overnight with blood sugar levels that return to normal.
7) Reduce bodyweight
If you already have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, one of the easiest ways to reduce blood sugar levels is to lose weight if you are overweight.
Researchers found that only a 10% reduction in weight is enough to impact blood sugar level but let’s face it – getting down to ideal body weight is always going to be your ultimate goal.
Do not settle for mere blood sugar reduction; run to the finish line and grab your trophy for optimum health.
All these recommendations will help you whether or not you have diabetes type 1 or 2 or simply elevated high blood sugar. The biggest step is the first – then it’s easy after that. Speak to your doctor about gestational diabetes treatment options and discuss prenatal care with a diabetes educator.