Jennifer Dunn, a former hospital nutritionist, was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during her second pregnancy with daughter Haley at 26 weeks. This diagnosis was a wake-up call for Jennifer, who realized that her sugar addiction needed to be addressed. She made necessary lifestyle changes to manage her condition and reduce the potential risk of type 2 diabetes for herself and her baby.
Initially, Jennifer experienced stress and self-blame, but she took action by conducting research and following her attending physician’s instructions. She checked her blood sugar four times a day, ate a strict diet with carb counting, and added protein and healthy fats to her meals. She also engaged in physical activity to stabilize her blood sugar.
Jennifer’s efforts paid off when her daughter was born without complications, weighing 7 pounds. Her story is a testament to the fact that making immediate changes and executing meaningful life choices can reverse an illness, even gestational diabetes.
Today, Jennifer is an advocate for diabetes and works with diabetics and women with blood sugar problems. Her story raises awareness of the complications associated with gestational diabetes and provides preventive tips to reduce the risk of developing the condition.
If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes or are prone to the condition, take action and make necessary lifestyle changes to manage your condition and reduce the potential risk of type 2 diabetes.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops for the first time during pregnancy, typically occurring between the 24th and 28th weeks of gestation. In the US, gestational diabetes is diagnosed in 2% to 10% of pregnancies each year.
Unfortunately, this condition often does not present any symptoms. However, if pregnant women’s blood sugar levels get too high, it can lead to the following complications:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Dryness of the mouth
- Blurry vision
- Genital itchiness
Dr. Jill Hechtman, an OB-GYN based in Florida, on what can happen when gestational diabetes is not controlled: “Uncontrolled gestational diabetes can lead to a number of complications for both mother and baby. These include macrosomia (large baby), preterm delivery, preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in the newborn, and even stillbirth. In addition, women with gestational diabetes are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Let us understand these complications in more details.
List of Gestational Diabetes Complications
In this condition, the baby grows larger than usual. When a mother develops gestational diabetes, the baby receives excess glucose from the mother’s blood. As a result, the baby weighs more than 9 pounds at birth. This condition makes normal delivery difficult, causing injury or birth trauma. It also increases the risk and need for c-section delivery.
Unmanaged gestational diabetes increases susceptibility to premature birth, usually before the 37th week of pregnancy. In some cases, doctors recommend early delivery because the baby is large and to prevent complications during pregnancy. Preterm babies develop health issues after birth, requiring specialized medical care.
Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are at risk of developing hypoglycemia after birth. Hypoglycemia is a condition where the baby’s blood sugar levels drop too low. If not treated immediately, frequent episodes of hypoglycemia can cause seizures in newborn babies. To address this condition, doctors may recommend constant feeding or administering a glucose solution intravenously to regulate the baby’s blood sugar levels.
Preeclampsia is a hypertensive disorder occurring during pregnancy. It typically happens during the 20th week of pregnancy. Its symptoms include shortness of breath, increased liver enzymes, severe headaches, and pain in the upper belly. Preeclampsia is threatening for both the mother and the baby, which may require early delivery.
Breathing problems will likely develop in babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes. One of these problems includes respiratory distress syndrome, a condition where the baby’s lungs are not fully developed, making breathing difficult.
Type 2 diabetes
An additional risk of type 2 diabetes can happen in women diagnosed with gestational diabetes. On the other hand, those born to mothers with gestational diabetes are also susceptible to obesity and type 2 diabetes as they grow older.
How to prevent gestational diabetes?
Jennifer, despite her success as a former hospital nutritionist and a health expert in her own right, was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Certain things are just unpredictable and unfortunate. While it is not always possible to prevent the condition, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Focus on consuming various nutrient-rich foods, such as freshly cut fruits, non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, and healthy fats.
- Practice portion control to maintain a balanced diet.
- Pay attention to your carbohydrate consumption and choose complex carbohydrates over sugar.
- Being overweight or obese increases the susceptibility to gestational diabetes. Before getting pregnant, try to achieve a healthy weight.
- Engage in regular physical activities as recommended by your healthcare professional.
- Attend all your prenatal appointments and follow your healthcare professional’s guidance.
- Stress can contribute to the development of gestational diabetes. Find ways to manage stress, including practicing relaxation techniques, engaging in gentle exercises like prenatal yoga, or seeking support from a counselor or support group.