A woman is often barraged by testing and blood work and urine tests and lots of handouts with information when she is pregnant. She’d probably just rather think about the coming baby, what she’s going to do about work, and how this baby will change her life as it is.
But sometime around week 24 to week 28, the doctor will tell her that it is time for a gestational diabetes test.
Gestational diabetes, also referred to as glucose intolerance during pregnancy, affects about 3-6 percent of pregnant women. All pregnant women should be tested since it is difficult to know in advance who might have gestational diabetes. There are certain risk factors, though, and some are:
? Being over the age of thirty
? Being obese ( a BMI of 30 or higher)
? Family history of diabetes
? Gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
The first test for gestational diabetes is usually called the “one hour test”. This test is done at the doctor’s office and involves drinking a very sweet glucose sugar solution, usually poorly disguised with orange or lemon flavor, and testing the blood one hour later. A blood sugar level of less than 140 is considered normal and no further testing is needed.
In my second pregnancy, I was 38. I was not overweight before the pregnancy, but during my first trimester, I had gained 24 pounds! I still wasn’t too concerned about gestational diabetes, even though my mother had type 2 diabetes that indirectly caused her death two years before. I began to feel a little worried when my one-hour glucose test came back at 240 and I was sweaty, nauseous, and dizzy for the remainder of the day.
When the blood sugar level is higher than 140, the person is considered to have gestational diabetes. Usually, the doctor will request a three hour test at that time. This is a fasting test. For ten to fourteen hours prior to the test, the woman should only have water. This is difficult for a pregnant woman, particularly one who does have gestational diabetes, since hunger is one of the symptoms.
A blood sample is drawn before drinking the glucose drink to establish a baseline blood sugar. Blood samples are drawn at one, two and three hour intervals. If two of the blood sugar values are higher than the baseline number, gestational diabetes is diagnosed.
For me, my fasting blood sugar level was 81. My one hour value was 240. I don’t even remember what the next ones were, because I knew I had gestational diabetes at that point.
Many times gestational diabetes carries no symptoms and is only suspected at the one hour glucose test. However, some symptoms are:
? Increased hunger or thirst
? Increased fatigue
? Increased urination
Since these are also normal symptoms of pregnancy, it is important to have the glucose testing around 24 weeks. Gestational diabetes can cause the baby to be very large at birth (over 9 pounds); to develop hypoglycemia (which is low blood sugar) at birth; or to be jaundice (yellow skin). Some more severe effects of gestational diabetes on the baby are respiratory distress at birth or even stillbirth.
It is vital to manage your gestational diabetes. Most of the time this can be done by changing diet and exercise. My doctor sent me to a nutritionist following my diagnosis of gestational diabetes. The nutritionist gave me a low-fat, moderate-carbohydrate eating plan. I also was prescribed a blood glucose monitor or glucometer and tested my blood sugar first thing in the morning and an hour after each meal. I learned to balance my proteins and carbs and to eat a healthy snack between meals. My blood sugar was easily controlled by these changes, but I went strictly by the book for the remainder of my pregnancy.
My baby was a healthy 7 lbs. 12 oz. and did not suffer from low blood sugar or any of the other adverse effects of gestational diabetes. Research isn’t clear on long-term effects of gestational diabetes on the child or whether she will be more apt to have diabetes herself later in life. Gestational diabetes disappears soon after delivery.
Since gestational diabetes does increase the risk that a woman may develop type 2 diabetes later in life, most doctors recommend staying on the low-fat, moderate carbohydrate diet and continuing to exercise three times a week. Your doctor may also suggest a glucose test once a year as well.
In my case, I lost the excess pregnancy weight at a reasonable time frame, I continue to eat the recommended diet of low-fat proteins and whole-grain carbohydrates, and I do some sort of exercise at least three times a week. (Okay, I try.) But I will get a glucose test once a year because of my mother’s severe type 2 diabetes.
No one knows why a person gets gestational diabetes. But doctors agree that maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, and exercising regularly are essential to preventing it.