This year’s Diabetes Month is focused on promoting long-term health after gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is a condition that can develop during pregnancy in women who did not have diabetes or high blood sugar before they were pregnant. During pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones that interfere with the body’s ability to properly use insulin leading to high blood sugar. This is called insulin resistance. Our body needs insulin to keep our blood sugar levels normal, and when the body cannot properly use insulin or we cannot produce enough of it, blood sugar levels rise.
Between 3 and 20 percent of pregnant women will develop gestational diabetes. If gestational diabetes is properly controlled, it is expected that the baby will be born healthy. If not controlled, the baby could grow larger, increasing the risk of complications during childbirth. The baby may also be at higher risk of having low blood sugar immediately after birth. Your doctor and diabetes educator’s advice will help you to appropriately manage blood sugars during pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes usually goes away right after childbirth, but there is still a greater chance the mother will develop diabetes later in life. The child from that pregnancy is also at future risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes. Here are 3 important steps to help you and your child stay healthy if you had gestational diabetes:
Get tested for type 2 diabetes within 6 weeks to 6 months after your baby is born. If the test is normal, get tested every 3 years or before planning another pregnancy.
Talk to your doctor if you plan to become pregnant again in the future.
Tell your child’s doctor if you had gestational diabetes.
Additional good news: a lot can be done to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes! For example:
Maintain a healthy diet by balancing your plate and choosing low glycemic index foods (ex: whole grains, legumes) spread over 3 meals, and snacks if needed. Ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietitian to learn about healthy eating. Check out our recipes below for ideas of low glycemic index snacks!