Here is yet again an informational post for all expecting mums & women who are planning a family… on one hot topic of pregnancy these days… GESTATIONAL DIABETES!
We all know about diabetes & that India is the diabetic capital of the world… but gestational diabetes is another issue that is alarmingly rising among most pregnant women nowadays.
What is it actually?
The term is self-explanatory – diabetes during gestation (pregnancy).
Diabetes is an endocrine disorder. Your pancreas is not able to produce required levels of insulin,a vital hormone that regulates metabolism in the body, leading to elevated sugar levels in the blood & urine. Blood circulating all over the body with elevated sugar content can cause severe damage to various organs – mainly nerves, kidneys, eyes, etc.
Diabetes during pregnancy can affect the baby’s growth & interfere with its neural & organ development. It can also lead to hypertension, premature labor & childbirth.
Gestational diabetes can be of two types.
1. Some women acquire diabetes during pregnancy, while post pregnancy diabetes issue can go away in some weeks time & their sugar levels return to normalcy.
2. In some women, diabetes continues even after pregnancy and the person is supposed to be on medication for life to control their sugar levels.
How is it caused?
As mentioned before, diabetes is caused due to low levels of insulin causing increased sugar levels in the body.
While pregnant, a woman undergoes a lot of hormonal changes. These hormonal imbalances sometimes cause the cells in the body to become unresponsive to insulin, generally termed as insulin resistance.
The pancreas secretes more insulin to meet the needs of the body in case of insulin resistance, but is unable to meet the actual demand – hence gestational diabetes!
Once a person has acquired gestational diabetes, they are at higher risk to become a diabetic in the future course of life.
If you are already overweight or obese before pregnancy, you could again be prone to gestational diabetes.
How to identify?
Diabetes is known as a “silent-killer”. You will never know you are diabetic, but the increased sugar levels in the body would be damaging all your vital organs already.
Likewise, a pregnant woman would not be able to make out if she has picked up gestational diabetes or not without a blood test.
Generally, this screening is done between 20 – 25 weeks of pregnancy via a Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT).
I would recommend opting for this screening as soon as you get to know you are pregnant, to avoid unnecessary worry & complications later in the pregnancy!
You might not be identified with diabetes early in the pregnancy but might pick up later too. Screening at regular intervals as advised by your physician is a must.
Thyroid & Gestational Diabetes are two mandatory checkup every woman should undergo immediately upon pregnancy confirmation, according to me!
Am I at risk?
– You are overweight or obese
– Your parents are diabetic or there is a family history of diabetes
You can pick up gestational diabetes even otherwise if you do not fall into the above risk factors.
If you have high blood pressure, had gestational diabetes in your earlier pregnancy, or delivered a big baby (baby weighing more than normally expected weight), or had a stillbirth before – you should get screened for gestational diabetes once you come to know of your pregnancy.
How can this affect my pregnancy or my baby?
When you have gestational diabetes, the sugar levels in your blood are uncontrolled & elevated. This enters the baby’s blood stream too via the placenta.
From the second trimester, the baby starts producing its own hormones (thyroid, insulin,etc.)
The baby’s blood sugar levels are also elevated in turn & it starts producing more insulin to combat the same. Thus the baby ends up putting more weight than usual and is termed as a ‘big baby’.
A big baby can find it tough to enter the birth canal or get stuck there, causing complications in getting delivered normally. These children continue to be obese sometimes throughout their childhood.
How to handle gestational diabetes?
Once you have been identified with gestational diabetes, your physician would immediately put you on insulin shots.
Tablets to control sugar are generally not advocated in pregnancy due to its possible adverse effects on the growing fetus. Whereas, when you take insulin in the form of injections, you are directly taking in the hormone (of synthetic nature) – which does not cross the placenta barrier & reach the baby!
The dosage of insulin is appropriately adjusted as per your blood sugar levels. You must also monitor your blood sugar levels regularly & frequently.
Also healthy diet accompanied by moderate daily exercise is advised.
I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes in about 8 weeks of pregnancy. I have a strong family history of diabetes, which I had putforth to my gynaec as soon as I discovered I am pregnant.
I was asked to regularly monitor my blood sugar levels, once a week initially at home using a glucometer.
I also underwent a Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT) once we came to know of higher blood sugar levels.
I was put on insulin shots immediately – 3 times a day before my major meals & once before bedtime. I was also checking my blood sugar with a glucometer at home once in every 3 days and sometimes once a week, to keep a check on my diabetes.
There are variants in the insulin hormone – long-acting & fast-acting. Fast-acting ones are prescribed over the day – they act quickly once taken but their effect last about only 3-4 hrs in the body. Long-acting ones are prescribed before night sleep. They take time to start acting inside the body, but their effects lasts long usually about 8-10 hrs., before its time for your next shot of insulin.
I am one who runs away at the sight of needles..used to create a scene just for that one small prick to draw a drop of blood for the glucometer only.. insulin shots 4 times a day took me down & stressed me out! I have been a disciplined eater most of my life & blamed God & my parents for putting me through this disease for no wrong of mine!
Coupled with my thyroid roller-coaster, I was sure of having one eventful pregnancy!
All credits to my gynaec, endocrinologist & family… my sorrow was short-lived & I began enjoying my pregnancy with all the encouragement, attention & pampering.
I never let anyone outside my family know about this till date…partly because I didn’t want to be sympathized with & also did not want others to be scared of.
Another side to it, I first wanted to deliver a healthy baby & then talk about all this gyaan….
I followed whatever my gynaec-endocrinologist-dietician combo told me to the word & rarely skipped a rule!
Thanks to Almighty, inspite of having gestational diabetes, I was able to deliver normally & my baby is all fine today! 🙂
I know I am one sureshot candidate to pick up diabetes-type 2 some day, but I am all set to face it with regular medication, planned meals & physical activity (lack of it now!) 😀
Did you face gestational diabetes during your pregnancy? How did you sail through? What are your thoughts on it?
– A Crappy Mom