As many as 3 out of every 100 hundred women have gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is a condition where a woman has high blood sugars during pregnancy that return to normal after the baby is delivered. Many women assume that once their sugars return to normal, they don’t have to worry – but women who have gestational diabetes are at higher risk for diabetes later on – and even their baby is at greater risk for health problems.
The Risks of Gestational Diabetes during Pregnancy
Women who have gestational diabetes are at risk for delivering a large baby and for a condition called preeclampsia where blood pressures rise during pregnancy. This can lead to serious health problems for both mom and the unborn baby. But the risk of gestational diabetes doesn’t stop there. Once a woman has had this condition, she’s at increased risk for type 2 diabetes for the rest of her life.
The baby may also be affected by a mom’s gestational diabetes. Babies born to moms who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at higher risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes.
What Does This Mean?
Women who have gestational diabetes during a pregnancy need regular screening for diabetes. Blood sugar should be checked within 3 months of giving birth to make sure they’ve returned to normal – and then re-checked every 2 to 3 years afterward.
There are some things moms with a history of gestational diabetes can do to reduce their risk of full-blown diabetes. Gestational diabetes is caused by insulin resistance, so it’s important to train the body use insulin more efficiently. This includes making lifestyle changes like losing excess weight and starting a regular exercise program. Eating a fiber-rich diet that’s low in processed foods also helps the body become less insulin resistant.
What about the baby? Moms who have gestational diabetes should take steps to ensure that their baby eats a healthy diet without excessive calories. This reduces their risk of obesity, a risk factor for diabetes later on. During childhood, they should be encouraged to stay active and have regular check-ups by a pediatrician. Breast-feeding a baby for 6 months also helps reduce their risk of obesity.
The Bottom Line?
Having gestational diabetes during pregnancy puts both mom and baby at risk for future health problems. It’s important that all mothers who had high blood sugars during pregnancy get regular blood sugar checks and take steps to reduce their risk of diabetes by exercising and eating a healthy diet. The same goes for the new baby – so both mom and baby can stay healthy and happy.
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