Managing Your Gestational Diabetes During and After Pregnancy

Managing Your Gestational Diabetes During and After Pregnancy

Diabetes is a general term used to describe diseases that affect the way your body handles blood sugar. All the cells in your body need glucose (sugar) for energy, but sometimes your body doesn’t produce enough insulin (a hormone that enables the sugar to enter the cells), so the sugar builds up in your bloodstream, which can cause major health issues. 

Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can be caused by genetic, lifestyle, or environmental factors, but gestational diabetes only occurs when you’re pregnant.

At Physicians Medical Primary Care, we treat many women with gestational diabetes. Here’s what we know about the condition.

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes develops in some pregnant women when their placenta produces hormones to help protect the pregnancy. These hormones also make you as the mother resistant to your own insulin, which usually isn’t a problem because your body produces more insulin to compensate and keep your blood sugar levels normal.

In some cases, though, your body can’t produce the extra insulin, which is when gestational diabetes develops. Pregnant women are typically tested at 24-28 weeks of pregnancy. The test usually involves the mother drinking a sugary drink; her blood sugar is then tested about an hour later, and if it is too high, further tests are done to confirm gestational diabetes.

About seven out of every 100 women in the United States tested develop the condition.

What complications can it cause?

If you develop gestational diabetes, you and your doctor must carefully monitor your condition. Complications from gestational diabetes can include giving birth to a large baby, which can increase the risk of injury to both the baby and the mom, and increase the baby’s risk of developing diabetes later in life.

Other risks include low blood sugar in the baby after they are born, and the chance of the mom developing pre-eclampsia, a life-threatening condition that can cause very high blood pressure.

What can you do about it?

Once you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, the first treatment is eating right. You should meet with a dietician to build a customized pregnancy diet that keeps your blood sugar at an acceptable level all day long.

You will also need to learn to check your blood sugar level throughout the day to determine if your level is on target. If it is too high, you’ll need to start taking insulin by injection. You’ll also need more frequent prenatal visits, and you may need a good exercise program to help keep your body healthy during pregnancy (check with your doctor).

If your blood sugar levels are fairly normal and you don’t have any other complications, the best time to deliver your baby is between 39 and 40 weeks. 

What’s next?

In most cases of gestational diabetes, this issue resolves itself after the baby is born and you no longer have diabetes. However, half of all women who have gestational diabetes do end up developing Type 2 diabetes later in life, so it’s important to monitor your blood sugar for the first couple of days after the baby is born.

Assuming all is well, the CDC then recommends getting tested for diabetes 6-12 weeks after your baby is born, and then every 1-3 years. If you did have gestational diabetes, you should continue to exercise and eat a healthy diet for the rest of your life to help prevent diabetes from recurring.

If you think you may have gestational diabetes, or if you’d like to know more about the topic, reach out to any of the Physicians Medical Primary Care offices in San Jose, California, and we’ll be happy to schedule an appointment for you, or you can book your own appointment online with our convenient scheduler.

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