Diabetes Management

All You Need To Know About Gestational Diabetes By Dr. Usman Javaid

Women are at risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy. It is characterized by elevated blood sugar levels and is typically a temporary condition that resolves after pregnancy. In most cases, with proper management, affected individuals can have healthy pregnancies. To know more about gestational diabetes keep reading the article!

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a condition in which women without diabetes develop high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Although it can develop at any stage of pregnancy, it usually occurs in the second trimester. Gestational diabetes occurs when the body is unable to produce enough insulin to satisfy the extra needs in pregnancy. There are generally very few noticeable symptoms of gestational diabetes and is usually diagnosed when the patient’s blood sugar level is tested.

A research conducted in 2021 noted that the global prevalence of Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) was 14.7%. The condition occurs when your body fails to make adequate insulin during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar levels and is usually diagnosed in the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the patient gives birth and most women with it have normal pregnancies and give birth to healthy babies. However, it is good to be cautious and follow the guidelines of your doctor. Moreover, you should also take care of your diet if you have gestational diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes Prevalence in Pakistan

According to a research study published in the Pakistan Journal of Medical and Health Sciences in 2022, the prevalence of gestational diabetes in Pakistan was 9.47%. The study highlighted the need to create public awareness regarding gestational diabetes, and stressed the importance of early diagnosis, timely management, and regular antenatal visits to prevent complications.

Screening Tests For Gestational Diabetes

Following are some screening tests used to diagnose gestational diabetes. Your doctor might test you for gestational diabetes during your second trimester, when you are between 24-28 weeks pregnant. Sometimes you might be asked to get tested for gestational diabetes early in your pregnancy if you are obese or have a family history of diabetes.

1. Initial Glucose Challenge Test

After consuming a sweet glucose solution, your blood sugar level will be assessed an hour later. A reading of 190 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or 10.6 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) is indicative of gestational diabetes. Typically, a blood sugar level below 140 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L) is considered normal on a glucose challenge test, but interpretations may vary between clinics or labs. If blood sugar levels are higher than normal, a follow-up glucose tolerance test is necessary to confirm the presence of gestational diabetes.

2. Follow-Up Glucose Tolerance Test

The follow-up glucose tolerance is similar to the initial one, but this time, the sugary solution is more concentrated, and your blood sugar will be monitored every hour over a three-hour period. If a minimum of two blood sugar readings surpass the anticipated levels, a diagnosis of gestational diabetes will be confirmed.

Target Blood Sugar Levels For Pregnant Women

The following table shows the target blood sugar levels for pregnant women according to the American Diabetes Association.

Fasting and before meal95 mg/dL or less
1 hour after meal140 mg/dL or less
2 hours after meal120 mg/dL or less

Remember that these are general guidelines. For proper instructions and case-specific guidance refer to your diabetologist.

What Should You Do If You Have Gestational Diabetes?

A specific meal plan can help keep your blood sugar in check. It is recommended that you visit a registered dietitian who can create a proper diet plan for you based on your height, weight, glucose intolerance, the requirements of your growing baby, food preferences, and physical activity. Your dietitian will tell you how many calories you need every day. You will also be taught how to determine portion sizes and how to have the right amount of carbohydrates, protein, and fat in your diet.

As a general rule of thumb, you should eat a variety of foods during pregnancy. The calories and carbohydrates should be distributed evenly throughout the day.

The American Diabetes Association recommends three moderate meals and about two to four snacks every day. Try to limit the intake of carbohydrates and only include complex carbs as they contain more fiber. Always pair lean protein with carbs during meals. Protein will not only help you feel fuller, it will also keep your blood sugar stable. Do not skip meals and distribute your calories equally throughout the day to keep blood sugar in check.

As far as your carbs go, doctors also recommend that less than half of your calories should come from them. Avoid the bad carbs like foods rich in sugar and starch. Instead, consume whole-grain carbs as these digest easily and have low sugar content.

The specific carbs to ignore include candies, white rice, fried potatoes, and fizzy drinks. These only add to your blood sugar levels which can cause diabetes.

Instead, try to eat as many vegetables as you can. They are good for your blood sugar and overall health. Also, try to keep a count of how many carbs you are consuming. They are measured in grams so it’s easy to count them. This is important in ensuring you don’t over-consume.

Make sure you eat a good breakfast as your blood glucose levels may be low in the morning. Instead of loading up on carbs like bread, cereals, and fruits, try to have more protein-rich foods such as eggs, nuts, and cheese. Try to skip fruit and fruit juices altogether during breakfast.

Eat more high fiber foods such as whole grain bread and cereals, vegetables and fruits, beans, legumes, and dried peas. High fiber foods are digested and absorbed more slowly than simple carbs by your body, which prevents your blood sugar from spiking up after meals.

Things To Avoid If You Have Gestational Diabetes

Avoid eating foods and beverages that are high in simple sugars such as fruits juices, soda, flavored teas, and desserts. These foods can make your blood sugar spiral out of control in no time. It is also recommended that you limit your intake of milk as it is high in simple sugar. Try to find an alternative source of calcium instead.

It is also recommended that you increase your physical activity moderately to keep your blood glucose levels stable. It is best to speak to your doctor to determine the right amount of physical activity for you during pregnancy.

What Are The Complications?

If you get gestational diabetes, chances are both you and your child will suffer health issues. The higher glucose levels in your body can be transferred to your baby, potentially leading to excessive growth. This can increase the risk of birth injuries and delivery complications:

  • There is a chance that after the baby is born, he will have breathing and blood sugar issues. Also, there is a risk of postpartum bleeding for the mother.
  • Furthermore, gestational diabetes can spike your blood pressure during the course of the pregnancy. There are many issues associated with this type of diabetes, but it goes away usually after the baby is delivered. However, if you already were diabetic then you will still have the condition post pregnancy.

Gestational Diabetes Management

Gestational diabetes management can help protect the mother and the baby from severe complications promoting healthy pregnancies. Following are some of the important ways in which gestational diabetes can be managed effectively:

1. Healthy Diet

Effective gestational diabetes management is incomplete without following a proper diet plan. If you aren’t sure what an adequate diet for diabetes is, consider going to your diabetes doctor or diabetologist for expert advice. A healthy diet plan involves incorporating a mix of nutritious fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet. It is advised to opt for healthy foods that are low in fat and calories to keep blood sugar levels in check.

2. Exercise

Moderate exercise is also recommended for individuals with gestational diabetes. Regular exercise can improve insulin sensitivity and help reduce blood sugar levels, which are vital components of gestational diabetes management. Refer to your doctor to get recommendations on the type of exercise best suited for your condition. Generally, low intensity exercise such as yoga or walking can be beneficial.

3. Medications

Along with diet and exercise, your healthcare provider may recommend insulin therapy and oral diabetes medications to help manage your blood sugar levels. You should follow the dosage and frequency instructions given by your healthcare provider when taking these medications. In case of any issues, refer to your primary healthcare provider or diabetologist for advice.

4. Monitoring Blood Sugar Levels

Regular blood sugar monitoring is a crucial part of gestational diabetes management. You can use a blood glucose meter to check your blood sugar several times a day, as recommended by your doctor. Generally, checking your blood sugar before meals, before and after exercise, and before bed is advised. You can also take a reading any time you feel your blood sugar might be too high or too low.

Accu-Chek Instant Blood Glucose Monitor for Gestational Diabetes Management

I, Dr. Usman, recommend monitoring your blood sugar daily. If fasting sugar is higher than 125 mg/dL, then consult a doctor for management. I suggest using Accu-Chek Instant for accurate readings or any other blood sugar monitor of equivalent quality.

The Accu-Chek Instant Blood Glucose Monitor is a game-changer for managing diabetes. It offers a painless method to measure your blood sugar levels. All you need to do is insert a test strip, apply some blood, and get clear results on a large backlit display.

What sets the Accu-Chek Instant apart from other glucose monitors is its emphasis on overall well being. By syncing with the mySugr app it allows users to effortlessly keep track of their data, transforming numbers into insights.

The purpose of the Accu-Chek Instant goes beyond number checks; it strives to simplify diabetes care, through fast and accurate tracking of blood sugar levels, empowering you to take charge of your health.

Conclusion

If you suspect that you have gestational diabetes, see your doctor right away to get a diagnosis and treatment to ensure a healthy pregnancy. If you are based in Karachi, you can book an appointment at your nearest Ansa Family Clinic by calling on 0800-22333 for consultation on diabetes.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.
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