Gestational Diabetes: Best Tips for You and Your Baby

Find out how to control your blood sugar
Gestational Diabetes: Best Tips for You and Your Baby

As an expectant mother, if you have gestational diabetes, there are several things you can do for your baby’s health and yours to control high blood sugar — during and after pregnancy.

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Gestational diabetes happens because hormones from the placenta work against your body’s insulin. If your doctor says you have gestational diabetes, it means your body’s insulin supply is not meeting the demand.

“Gestational diabetes is an early warning sign. It presents an opportunity to make lifestyle changes that may prevent type 2 diabetes,” says Ob/Gyn Jeff Chapa, MD.

What happens when you have gestational diabetes?

It’s best to control your blood sugar carefully when you’re pregnant because gestational diabetes can cause the following problems for both you and your baby:

  • Extra glucose stays in your blood and your baby receives more sugar than it needs — and stores it as fat. Possible outcomes include a large baby, more chance of having a cesarean delivery, and slightly more risk of fetal and neonatal death.
  • Babies born to women with diabetes also need monitoring after birth. Low blood sugars can lead to problems for your baby, including seizures, Dr. Chapa says.

How can you keep blood sugar at healthy levels?

You can still have a healthy baby if you focus on good habits. There are three things you can do to help make sure your blood sugar levels are stable during your pregnancy:

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  1. Regularly check your blood glucose. Typically, that means taking a fasting blood sugar reading in the morning and then checking the levels two hours after each meal, Dr. Chapa says.
  2. Limit carbohydrates (rice, pasta and breads) and simple sugars in your diet.
  3. Exercise regularly. Physical activity helps your body use insulin better, which helps control your blood sugar.

Is insulin safe for you to take when you’re pregnant?

Despite their best efforts, some pregnant women still have blood sugars that are too high. In that case, you might need medical management, says Dr. Chapa.

“If diet and exercise alone don’t work, in most cases, we use insulin,” he says. Insulin injections are superficial shots that you give yourself between one and four times per day. Insulin does not cross the placenta, and therefore, it does not affect the baby.

Your doctor may prescribe oral medications, but only as a second line of therapy because they do cross the placenta in small amounts.

“We would recommend oral hyperglycemia agents such as Glucophage, which works to decrease your body’s resistance to insulin,” says Dr. Chapa.

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Will you still have diabetes after you have your baby?

For most women with gestational diabetes, things go back to normal after their babies are born. But your doctor likely will check for type 2 diabetes postpartum — typically from six to 12 weeks after delivery.

“And approximately 10% of the women who have gestational diabetes actually end up having type 2 diabetes,” he says.

“In reality, they may have met the criteria for diabetes prior to the pregnancy. It was just undiagnosed.”

Also, research shows that about half of those who have gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes within the next 10 years. So it’s a good idea to continue to watch your diet, exercise regularly and get checked for type 2 diabetes annually after your baby is born.

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