Advice Column, Parenting, Pregnancy & Baby

Pregnancy and Gestational Diabetes, What You Need to Know

Pregnancy is one of the most life-altering experiences for a woman. Pregnancy Awareness Week takes place from 10 to 16 February to strengthen pregnancy education and stress the important issues that promote a healthy pregnancy and safe motherhood1. This year Life Healthcare is focusing on educating women about gestational diabetes.

Pregnancy can result in various risks for both mother and baby, the most prevalent of these risks is gestational diabetes, a condition in which a woman without diabetes develops high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Pregnancy can affect the way a woman’s body processes sugar due to a high volume of hormones produced by the placenta. These hormones block the body’s ability to produce insulin that moves the sugar from the bloodstream into the body’s cells.

“Gestational diabetes is most common from 20 weeks of pregnancy and is rarely diagnosed before this. Identifying the signs and symptoms of gestational diabetes isn’t always easy as they are nonspecific, however, a urine test, which is then followed up with a fasting blood test, can ascertain whether an expectant mother has this condition,” explains Dr Liz Radloff, Obstetrician/Gynaecologist at Life Wilgers Hospital.

Risk factors for diabetes include being over the age of 25 years, being overweight, having conditions that cause insulin resistance, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and having high blood pressure prior to pregnancy. Gestational diabetes can result in various complications for both mother and baby, including a higher than normal birth weight, preterm labour and low blood sugar in the infant2.

“Nutrition is critically important for an expectant mother and child and will assist in decreasing the risk of developing gestational diabetes. It is important for pregnant women to adopt a healthy, balanced diet and establish a regular exercise routine that is overseen and approved by their specialist. It is not recommended that women who are overweight attempt to lose weight once they have fallen pregnant. If weight loss is required, consulting with your specialist and a dietician will ensure that this is done safely to minimise the risk of complications,” explains Dr Radloff.

Should diet and exercise fail in managing this condition, medication in oral or injectable forms may be necessary to manage high sugar levels. Generally, gestational diabetes clears after birth, however, mothers who have been diagnosed during pregnancy are likely to develop type 2 diabetes later. If a pregnant woman has gestational diabetes, her risk of type 2 diabetes after pregnancy rises. It is therefore recommended that mothers follow the same diet and exercise plan once their babies have been born.

It is vital that expectant mothers listen to their bodies to avoid the risk of developing complications such as gestational diabetes. Life Healthcare places great importance on appointing a qualified and skilled healthcare practitioner to assist and monitor development during pregnancy.

The correct medical assistance from a certified healthcare provider will ensure both mother and baby are kept healthy and safe during pregnancy. “Gestational diabetes can be a worrying diagnosis for an expectant mother. However, by managing the condition with your obstetrician/gynaecologist and making well-informed decisions related to your diet and exercise, risks can be mitigated, and expectant mothers can look forward to delivering healthy babies,” concludes Dr Radloff.

For more information on pregnancy and pregnancy-related symptoms and developments visit our pregnancy guide in the link below:

https://www.lifehealthcare.co.za/media/1567/pregnancy-guide-v2.pdf

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