What is gestational diabetes?
Diabetes is a medical condition in which the body’s high blood glucose levels are too high. A large portion of the body’s energy is produced from the glucose found in food. Insulin, produced by the pancreas, moves glucose from the bloodstream and into cells. The cells process the glucose into energy. Individuals with diabetes do not produce enough insulin to counteract the blood glucose levels. High blood glucose levels can lead to a variety of health problems: heart disease, strokes, kidney disease, eye problems, dental disease, nerve damage, and food problems.
Gestational diabetes is developed during pregnancy and will typically go away after the birth of the baby. During pregnancy the placenta produces a large number of hormones. The hormones directly impede insulin levels, raising the body’s blood sugar. The more the baby develops, the more insulin counteracting hormones are produced. The higher the blood glucose levels, the greater risk to the baby. The risks to the baby include: high birth weight, respiratory distress, preterm labor, and hypoglycemia, and type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes also increases the mother’s risk of high blood pressure and preeclampsia. A woman can also develop gestational diabetes during each subsequent pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes and weight
Women with a BMI of more than 30 or higher are more likely to develop gestational diabetes. Even with a healthy diet, many diabetics find weight gain frustrating side effect of the disease. Weight gain during pregnancy is to be expected. Gestational diabetes makes maintaining a healthy weight much harder. Diabetes prevents the processing of glucose in the body, increasing the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. The more sugar in the bloodstream, the greater the chance of gaining weight. And since pregnant women need to eat more, excess weight gain is likely.
Due to the changes occurring within the body, all pregnant women experience some form of insulin resistance. Often a woman is able to produce enough insulin the counteract the changes. But some women cannot. The women that cannot naturally produce enough insulin are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Increased blood glucose levels in the mother crosses the placenta, reaching the baby. The baby’s pancreas is then triggered to produce extra insulin to counteract the high glucose levels. The higher the insulin levels, the higher the weight. Increased weight does not just affect the mother’s health, but the baby’s as well.
Mothers predisposed to or diagnosed with gestational diabetes should keep active and focus on eating healthy foods. Diets high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains are recommended. Eating as little processed foods as possible will help the mother monitor sugar intake. Low impact exercising 30 minutes a day can help protect a mother from developing gestational diabetes. Medication may be needed to help keep blood sugar levels from spiking.
Gestational diabetes affects both the mother an infant. Weight gain and high blood glucose levels will cross over to the baby. Typically, healthier mothers produce healthier infants. Staying active and eating a more plant-based diet can prevent and counteract gestational diabetes.