Gestational Diabetes, unlike other forms of diabetes, is temporary. Hormonal shifts during pregnancy can cause insulin resistance, which means glucose levels stay high in the blood instead of being taken to the cells for energy, causing a spike in blood sugar levels. These imbalances occur through the course of some pregnancies and usually disappear after childbirth. The good news is that a healthy pregnancy is possible with appropriate management. You can keep your blood sugar levels in check through proper nutrition, physical activity and working closely with your doctor.
Step 1: Identifying the Symptoms
The symptoms of Gestational diabetes can be tough to identify on your own. However, through routine pregnancy screening tests, your obstetrician will be able to identify high blood sugar levels.
Imbalance in blood sugar causes symptoms like:
• Increased thirst
• Frequent urination
• Dry mouth
Step 2: Diagnosis
The primary method to diagnose gestational diabetes is blood testing. Your obstetrician may advise a glucose screening test, oral glucose tolerance test or both.
Glucose screening test:
This test may require fasting. Your obstetrician will take a blood sample one hour after prescribing you a liquid containing glucose. If your blood sample indicates high glucose levels i.e., 140 mg/dL or more, your doctor may request you to go for a glucose tolerance test.
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT):
OGTT is typically done between 24 – 28 weeks of the pregnancy. You will be required to fast for at least 8 to 10 hours before this test. Two blood samples will be collected, one on arrival and the other after you have consumed a prescribed drink containing 75 grams of glucose in 200 ml of water. Further, your blood sample is collected one or two hours after.
Normal values are as follows:
- Fasting (before drinking glucose) – 92 mg/dL (5.3 mmol/L) or lower.
- 1 hour after drinking glucose- 180 mg/dL (10.0 mmol/L) or lower.
- 2 hours after drinking glucose- 153 mg/dL (8.6 mmol/L) or lower.
Abnormal values would indicate Gestational diabetes.
Step 3: Treatment and Prevention of Gestational Diabetes:
You can reduce your risk of gestational diabetes by staying healthy before and during your pregnancy. Eat a balanced diet and get regular exercise.
Treatment for gestational diabetes primarily involves maintaining and monitoring blood sugar levels with frequent checkups throughout your pregnancy. Your healthcare provider will closely monitor the health of your baby and check your blood sugar levels. You may need to monitor your blood sugar at home with a glucometer.
Some women need medication to manage gestational diabetes, but most women can keep their blood sugar levels under control with diet and exercise.
If the sugar levels continue to fluctuate, your obstetrician may start you on insulin treatment.
Step 4: Management
The good news is that a healthy pregnancy is possible even with gestational diabetes with the help of the correct precautionary measures and medical nutrition therapy. The four primary factors in managing gestational diabetes are:
- Meal timings
- Apart from having a dedicated meal plan, it is crucial to adhere to fixed meal timings. Skipping or delaying meals can cause high/low blood sugar.
- Quantity of food
- Observe control on serving size, as a greater quantity of food intake can raise blood sugar.
- Quality of food
- Balanced diet of healthy foods with a low glycemic index (GI).
- Follow a split meal pattern of eating that will control your blood sugar levels while you’re pregnant.
- Physical activity
- A health-conscious diet is paramount, but it is also important to get 45 minutes of daily physical activity.
Your dietician will keep track and plan a healthy and nutritious diet according to your needs during pregnancy to keep your blood sugar levels on track. A healthy and safe birth experience is possible even with gestational diabetes. Please consult with your obstetrician at the earliest to construct a Gestational Diabetes management plan best suited to your personal needs