Diabetes in pregnancy
Gestational diabetes is diabetes diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy (gestation). Like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes affects how your cells use sugar (glucose). Gestational diabetes causes high blood sugar that can affect your pregnancy and your baby’s health.
While any pregnancy complication is concerning, there’s good news. Expectant mothers can help control gestational diabetes by eating healthy foods, exercising and, if necessary, taking medication. Controlling blood sugar can keep you and your baby healthy and prevent a difficult delivery.
In women with gestational diabetes, blood sugar usually returns to normal soon after delivery. But if you’ve had gestational diabetes, you have a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes. You’ll need to be tested for changes in blood sugar more often.
For most women, gestational diabetes doesn’t cause noticeable signs or symptoms. Increased thirst and more-frequent urination are possible symptoms.
When to see a doctor
If possible, seek health care early — when you first think about trying to get pregnant — so your doctor can check your risk of gestational diabetes along with your overall wellness. Once you’re pregnant, your doctor will check you for gestational diabetes as part of your prenatal care.
If you develop gestational diabetes, you may need checkups more often. These are most likely to occur during the last three months of pregnancy, when your doctor will monitor your blood sugar level and your baby’s health.
Researchers don’t yet know why some women get gestational diabetes and others don’t. Excess weight before pregnancy often plays a role.
Normally, various hormones work to keep your blood sugar levels in check. But during pregnancy, hormone levels change, making it harder for your body to process blood sugar efficiently. This makes your blood sugar rise.
There are no guarantees when it comes to preventing gestational diabetes — but the more healthy habits you can adopt before pregnancy, the better. If you’ve had gestational diabetes, these healthy choices may also reduce your risk of having it again in future pregnancies or developing type 2 diabetes in the future.
- Eat healthy foods. Choose foods high in fibre and low in fat and calories. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Strive for variety to help you achieve your goals without compromising taste or nutrition. Watch portion sizes.
- Keep active. Exercising before and during pregnancy can help protect you from developing gestational diabetes. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week. Take a brisk daily walk. Ride your bike. Swim laps. Short bursts of activity — such as parking further away from the store when you run errands or taking a short walk break — all add up too.
- Start pregnancy at a healthy weight. If you’re planning to get pregnant, losing extra weight beforehand may help you have a healthier pregnancy. Focus on making lasting changes to your eating habits that can help you through pregnancy, such as eating more vegetables and fruits.
- Don’t gain more weight than recommended. Gaining some weight during pregnancy is normal and healthy. But gaining too much weight too quickly can up your risk of gestational diabetes. Ask your doctor what a reasonable amount of weight gain is for you.