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Diabetes is a condition that causes high levels of glucose in the blood. Glucose is a sugar that is the body’s main source of fuel. Health problems can arise when the glucose levels are too high or not well controlled. Diabetes during pregnancy, known as gestational diabetes, is high blood sugar that begins or is first diagnosed during pregnancy.

If you have diabetes, preparing for pregnancy can improve your health and that of your future child. Plan to see your doctor before you get pregnant to discuss your care.

Causes of gestational diabetes

Diabetes occurs when there is a problem with the way the body makes or uses insulin, is a hormone that converts glucose in food into energy. During pregnancy, the hormones produced by the placenta can change the way insulin works, leading to gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes can occur even when no risk factors or symptoms are present. If symptoms are present, they are often mild, and glucose levels often return to normal after delivery.

Gestational diabetes risks

The risk of problems during pregnancy is greatest when diabetes is not well controlled. If you have diabetes or if you are at risk of developing gestational diabetes, you should be aware of the problems that may arise:

  • Birth defects
  • Macrosomia: delivering a very large baby, which can increase the risk of complications during delivery
  • Preeclampsia: high blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Hydramnios: too much amniotic fluid
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Respiratory distress syndrome, which can make it harder for the baby to breathe after birth.

Diabetes Control

You can measure and monitor your own glucose levels through a number of glucose monitoring devices, all of which are safe and simple to use on a daily basis. Maintaining a healthy diet, especially during pregnancy, can also help stabilize your blood sugar levels.

Home Blood Glucose Monitoring

You can easily measure your blood sugar levels with a home glucose meter, which requires a small blood sample. A special needle called a lancet can be used to quickly prick the fingertip, and a drop of blood is then placed on a disposable testing strip. The testing strip is inserted into the glucose meter, which will read your blood sugar level.  You may need to check your glucose several times day to keep it at a normal level. For the most effective monitoring and treatment, keep accurate records of your results and report them to your doctor.

Gestational Diabetes Diet

Eating a balanced and nutritive diet is an important part of any pregnancy. The food you eat provides your baby with the necessary nutrients to grow and develop. Eating a healthy diet is even more important if you have gestational diabetes. Eating properly can often keep your blood sugar levels stable and may even help you avoid certain medications during your pregnancy.

Talk to your doctor about developing a proper diet plan during pregnancy. Your proper diet for gestational diabetes will depend on several factors, such as your weight, your activity level, how far along you are in your pregnancy, and how fast your baby is growing. Most women need just 300 extra calories a day during pregnancy..

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact the Center for Women’s Health at 913-491-6878.