Hello and welcome back everyone! Today on the Santa Clarita Valley (SCV) Birth Center blog, we’re diving into the topic of gestational diabetes. It’s a common concern during pregnancy, but fear not – we’re here to shed some light on the matter and help you make informed decisions about your health and your baby’s well being.
What is gestational diabetes and how does it develop?
Gestational diabetes occurs when the mother’s body becomes insulin resistant during pregnancy. To understand this, we need to know how food breaks down into sugar and how insulin plays a vital role in regulating blood sugar levels. When you eat carbohydrates, they convert into sugar, which is then absorbed by your cells to provide energy.
Here’s a fun fact: Did you know that even seemingly healthy foods like dates and carrots contain sugar? Yep, everything eventually breaks down into sugar in our bodies. These foods have a high glycemic index (GI).
A food’s GI is a relative ranking of how different carbohydrates affect blood sugar. When you have gestational diabetes, it is important to eat foods that don’t cause major blood sugar (glucose) spikes.
Knowing the GI of the carbohydrates you eat can help you fine-tune your meals to keep your blood sugar within a normal range. Foods with a higher GI value are more likely to spike your blood sugar than foods with a lower GI.
During pregnancy, hormonal changes make your body more resistant to insulin, and this is perfectly normal. However, certain risk factors, such as age, ethnicity, family history, and body mass index (BMI), can increase your chances of developing gestational diabetes. So, it’s essential to be aware of your risk factors and manage your blood sugar levels to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Screening and diagnostic tests for gestational diabetes
Screening for gestational diabetes usually involves consuming a glucose drink and measuring blood sugar levels afterward. The “standard of care” in the medical model is a 50-gram glucose drink. At the SCV Birth Center we special order our glucose drink (referred to as “glucola”) so you don’t have to worry about any artificial colors, flavors, or any extra chemicals used by other manufacturers, which might be concerning to some people.
In the scenario of drinking “the drink,” you drink this glucola and then we wait one hour. At the one hour point, we draw some blood to determine how much of that sugar is still circulating in your blood. If the body’s insulin did its job, then we’ll be able to see that in the blood sugar measurements.
If the blood sugar measurement comes in at approximately 140 or higher, then we conclude that you may be at risk for gestational diabetes and an additional diagnostic test is offered.
Another option is to decline drinking the glucola and instead you can check your blood sugars at home with a glucometer. Glucometers are those handy devices that measure blood sugar levels from a small drop of blood obtained by pricking your finger. This option is often preferred as it gives us information as to how your body is actually reacting to the foods you eat on a regular basis.
Risks and complications of uncontrolled gestational diabetes
Managing gestational diabetes is essential because uncontrolled blood sugar levels can lead to various risks and complications during pregnancy. Some of these risks include preeclampsia, large-for-gestational-age babies, and even birth injuries. Additionally, babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes can experience low blood sugar levels, so it’s vital to monitor them carefully after birth.
With proper management and regular check-ups with your healthcare provider, you can significantly reduce these risks. It’s all about staying proactive and taking charge of your health.
Diet-controlled vs. insulin-dependent diabetes
The good news is that many women with gestational diabetes can control their blood sugar levels through diet and lifestyle changes. This is called diet-controlled diabetes. By maintaining a balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity, you can help your body process sugar effectively.
However, for some women, diet alone may not be enough, and insulin may be necessary to regulate blood sugar levels. This is called insulin-dependent diabetes. Work with your healthcare provider to determine the best course of action for your specific situation.
Unfortunately, if you need to control your gestational diabetes with insulin, or if your blood sugars are uncontrolled, it is highly unlikely you will get to have an out-of-hospital birth due to the increased risks to both you and the baby. That’s what the evidence tells us. We here at the SCV Birth Center will take all of our clients in this situation to the hospital to give birth, simply because hospitals are more equipped to handle most of the potential situations that could develop as a result of gestational diabetes.
Monitoring blood sugar levels
During pregnancy, it’s crucial to monitor your blood sugar levels regularly if you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes or if you are predisposed with any of the known risk factors, such as:
- You are over the age of 25
- You have a first-degree family member with diabetes
- You are of South Pacific, Asian, or African American ethnicity
- You have a higher BMI
Monitoring your blood sugar not only helps you stay on top of your health but also provides valuable data for your healthcare provider to assess how well you’re managing gestational diabetes. You can do this through capillary testing using a glucometer. By checking your fasting blood sugar levels in the morning and one hour after each meal, you can get a clear picture of how your body is responding to different foods.
But here at the SCV Birth Center, SCV’s premier birth center, we also have clients who decline the Glucola screening test and choose not to monitor their blood sugar. These clients have had the conversation with us to determine that they are at low risk to develop gestational diabetes, so this is a safe decision for their situations. Once again, it’s important to have this conversation with your provider to determine your risk level and the extent to which you need to monitor blood sugar and other aspects of gestational diabetes.
Nutrition tips for gestational diabetes
Here are some practical nutrition tips for managing gestational diabetes:
- Balance your meals: Aim to have a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats in each meal to stabilize blood sugar levels.
- Snack smartly: Choose snacks that are high in protein and low in sugar to keep your energy levels steady throughout the day.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water can help regulate blood sugar levels and prevent dehydration.
- Limit sugary beverages: Opt for water, herbal teas, or unsweetened beverages instead of sugary drinks or fruit juices.
- Incorporate fiber: Foods high in fiber, such as whole grains, legumes, and vegetables, can slow down the absorption of sugar and help maintain steady blood sugar levels.
Final thoughts and tips
If you’re managing gestational diabetes well through proper nutrition and lifestyle changes, you can potentially mitigate risks and have a smooth pregnancy. Even if you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, adopting a healthy lifestyle can manage the symptoms during your pregnancy as well as significantly reduce the chances of developing diabetes later in life.
So, here’s the takeaway: Be mindful of your food choices, regularly monitor your blood sugar levels, and seek support from your healthcare provider.
Remember, everyone’s experience is unique, so if you have helpful tips or recipes that have worked for you, feel free to share them with us and the SCV Birth Center community! Stay informed, stay healthy, and have a wonderful day!
Don’t forget to check out evidencebasedbirth.com for more valuable information and resources on the evidence behind gestational diabetes and how it can affect you and your baby.
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