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While most women can accommodate the hormonal changes associated with gestation, some can develop high blood sugar, even if their levels were previously normal before pregnancy.
When the body no longer adequately responds to insulin, women can develop gestational diabetes mellitus or GDM.
Who is at risk?
Certain risk factors may put women at a higher probability of developing gestational diabetes, but it can also occur in women without any risk factors.
Dr. Anna Parizh, an OB-GYN, says “all women need to get tested for gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation.” Dr. Parizh notes a woman may be more likely to develop gestational diabetes if she has any of the following:
- Is older than 25
- Is Hispanic, African American, Native American, Asian, or Pacific Islander
- Is overweight or obese
- Has gained too much weight during pregnancy
- Has prediabetes or family history of diabetes
- Has high blood pressure
- Has polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Has a history of gestational diabetes
- Has previously delivered a large baby, i.e. > 9 lbs.
- Has a history of a stillborn
What can you do to treat it?
Dr. Parizh shares that women need to be aware that gestational diabetes can cause a range of health issues to both mom and baby.
Those conditions include preeclampsia and premature delivery, but also complications after delivery. Complications after delivery include breathing issues, low blood sugar, jaundice, or even NICU admission.
If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it’s important to follow the treatment plan your doctor lays out for you.
Treatment may include more frequent visits with your OB-GYN and meeting with a registered nutritionist or dietitian. Often, you’ll be asked to check your blood sugar levels throughout the day and keep a food log.
Other treatments may include increasing exercise, oral medication, or injectable insulin if diet and exercise changes are not enough to control your glucose levels. If your blood levels are not in control, earlier delivery is a possibility.
What can you do to prevent it?
Though some risk factors may make certain patients more susceptible to gestational diabetes, certain health habits can lower your risk of developing the condition.
These lifestyle changes include eating a healthy diet focusing on whole grains, lean protein, vegetables, and fruits; a regular exercise routine aiming for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise 5 days a week, or 150 minutes per week; and maintaining a healthy weight.
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