diabetes in pregnancy

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that only pregnant women get. If a woman gets diabetes when she is pregnant, but never had it before, then she has gestational diabetes. Diabetes during pregnancy can affect the health of both the mother and her unborn child. Proper health care before and during pregnancy will help prevent birth defects and other poor outcomes, such as miscarriage and stillbirth. The diabetes usually disappears after the pregnancy ends but about half of the women with gestational diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes later in life.    

If the woman develops gestational diabetes during the pregnancy, the baby's blood sugar becomes high. The baby makes more insulin and uses the extra calories or stores them as fat and grows extra large. The extra large baby can cause problems during and after delivery. Nerve damage to the baby can happen from pressure on the baby's shoulder during delivery. A large baby born to a woman with diabetes has a greater chance of being obese and/or developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Such a baby can also develop jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). Other babies may have trouble breathing and need oxygen (respiratory distress syndrome).      

Gestational diabetes might be controlled with only diet and exercise, or it might take insulin as well as diet and exercise to get control. Good nutrition is especially important during pregnancy if gestational diabetes has been developed. A woman affected by gestational diabetes should see a dietician who can design a diet particularly suited for her, based on her weight, height, physical activity, and the needs of the growing baby. A general guideline is to eat three small-to-moderate-sized meals at regular intervals with fruits as snacks in between meals. Meals should also not be skipped and meals should be eaten at consistent times because it helps in the action of the medications and helps stabilise blood sugar level.            

A woman suffering from gestational diabetes can have her blood sugar falling to dangerously low levels during the night so it is recommended that she takes a bedtime snack which can be a fruit and not delay her breakfast. Due to the possibility of blood glucose levels going dangerously low, fasting should be avoided. Generally, a woman with gestational diabetes should eat a variety of foods especially green leafy vegetables. A diet which is high in fat causes the insulin to react in a less efficient manner, necessitating more insulin to keep blood sugar levels within normal range. Intake of fats and oils such as margarine, cheese, butter, fried foods and oily stews and soups should be limited. Intake of foods and beverages that contain simple sugars such as ‘soft drinks’ and ‘minerals’, fruit juices and drinks, toffees, ice cream, biscuits and other pastries should be avoided or limited in the diet because these foods can quickly elevate blood sugar levels.             

Regular exercise is has enormous benefits to the woman because it helps reduce excess body fat and also helps in glucose utilisation. Exercises can be at least 30 minutes in duration and can be done in short intervals and walking is appropriate but a pregnant woman should not start an exercise program without checking with her doctor first.


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