Diabetes & Pregnancy
Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that affect your body’s use of blood sugar (glucose).
What is diabetes?
Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that affect the body’s use of blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is essential to your health because it is the brain’s primary source of fuel, and it provides energy to the cells that make up your tissues and muscles.
There are 2 types of diabetes, but regardless of the type, these diseases result from excessive sugar in the blood. Type 1 usually develops at a young age (though it can develop at any age) and occurs when the pancreas produces little to no insulin. Type 2 can also develop at any age, but it is more common among people who are 40 or older.
What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy, usually around 24-28 weeks. Often this form of the disease can be controlled through eating a healthy diet and routine exercise. Some women will also need to take insulin.
A diagnosis does not mean that you had diabetes before you conceived or that you will have it after giving birth. For most women, this form of diabetes goes away soon after delivery. When it does not go away, the diagnosis then shifts from gestational to type 2 diabetes. Even if it does go away after your baby is born, there is always a possibility that you can still develop type 2 later on.
Whatever your journey offers, It is essential to follow your doctor’s advice regarding blood glucose (blood sugar) levels while you are planning your pregnancy. If you are pregnant and have diabetes, Dr. Heather Stanley-Christian will strive to ensure that you and your baby both remain healthy throughout the entire process.
What are the symptoms?
Your diabetes-related symptoms will depend on how much your blood sugar is elevated. Some of the most common symptoms of diabetes include:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Extreme hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Recurrent infections (of the gums, skin, or vagina)
It is very common to experience no symptoms.
What are the risk factors?
Risk factors for type 1 include:
- Environmental factors, such as exposure to viral illnesses
- Family history (your risk is increased if a family member has type 1 diabetes)
- The presence of damaging immune system cells in the body (autoantibodies)
The risk factors for type 2 include:
- Fatty tissue in the body
- Family history
- Age (40+)
- High blood pressure
- Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride (a type of fat) levels
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (characterized by irregular periods, obesity, and excessive hair growth)
The risk factors for gestational diabetes include:
- Women who are older than 25
- Excess weight (if you are overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher)
- Family or personal health history (your risk increases if you have prediabetes, or if you have a family member who has type 2)
- Previous pregnancy with gestational diabetes
Unfortunately, type 1 cannot be prevented, but there are steps you can take to prevent type 2 and gestational. These steps include eating healthy, routine physical activity, and a loss of weight if you are overweight.
All of the above are manageable conditions for a pregnant woman. Finding the best medical care for you and your baby is important. It is common to have a team of providers, that include specialists like Dr. Heather Stanley-Christian to oversee your pregnancy and support you on your journey.
What pregnancy issues can arise with gestational diabetes?
Problems can arise in women with gestational diabetes if their blood sugar is not well controlled. Some of the most common issues include:
- An extra large baby (if the baby’s blood sugar is too high as a result of overfeeding)
- Mandatory Cesarean section delivery
- High blood pressure (preeclampsia)
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
How can I manage my diabetes?
The best way to manage diabetes, as well as your overall health, is to eat healthily and get plenty of exercise. We recommend cutting down on saturated fats (red meat and dairy), refined carbohydrates, and sweets. Exercise will lower your blood sugar level by moving sugar into your cells for energy, and it increases your sensitivity to insulin.
Insulin pumps or injections, frequent blood sugar monitoring, and carbohydrate counting can all help to treat diabetes. Other treatments may be recommended by your healthcare provider, including oral medications, a pancreas transplant, or surgery.
We also encourage you to get tested for diabetes 6 to 12 weeks after your baby is born, and then every 1 to 3 years. It is crucial for women who have had gestational diabetes to continue to eat a healthy diet and exercise after pregnancy to prevent or delay getting type 2.