Boss mama, author and former MIC star, Binky Felstead, has shared that she is officially a “GD Mum”. A “what?!” we hear you ask. Well, we’re talking about gestational diabetes. In other words, the sneaky form of diabetes that can appear during pregnancy, knock you sideways and leave you feeling totally exhausted.
A diagnosis of gestational diabetes can be kind of overwhelming, so we’ve done a deep dive on everything you need to know…
What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes (aka GD) is a type of diabetes that occurs in pregnant women who did not have diabetes before becoming pregnant. It affects around 5% of pregnancies. GD typically develops during the second or third trimester of pregnancy and usually goes away after the baby is born.
What causes GD?
This involves a little bit of biology, so let’s break it down:
- Insulin is a hormone created by the pancreas that regulates the amount of glucose (aka sugar) in the bloodstream at any given time.
- During pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones that can cause insulin resistance.
- Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver can’t use insulin effectively and so can’t easily take up glucose from the blood. This means there is more sugar in the blood than normal.
- As a result, the body tries to fix the problem by making more insulin to help sugar enter the cells in the muscles, fat and liver. This can lead to higher blood sugar levels in the mother and result in gestational diabetes.
Did I do something wrong to cause GD?
No, absolutely not! You are not to blame for having GD.
Eating certain types of food doesn’t mean you caused GD or that you did something wrong during pregnancy. Mothers who have had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy may not get it with a later pregnancy. And mummies who have not had GD in previous pregnancies (like Binky) may be diagnosed in a future pregnancy. There’s no definite way to prevent GD and, in many cases, it’s just straight-up back luck.
Who is at risk of developing GD?
Any woman can develop GD during pregnancy but factors that might put you in the higher risk category include:
- Age: Women over the age of 40.
- Family history: Women with a family history of diabetes, especially a parent or sibling, are more likely to develop GD.
- Pre-pregnancy weight: Women who are overweight or obese before becoming pregnant.
- Previous gestational diabetes: Women who have had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy are more likely to develop it again.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): Women with PCOS, a hormonal disorder that affects the ovaries, are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes.
- Ethnicity: Women of certain ethnic backgrounds, including African American, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian, are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes.
- Having a large baby in a previous pregnancy: Women who have previously given birth to a baby weighing 10 pounds or more are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes in future pregnancies.
If you fall into one of the above categories, it’s important to make your midwife aware so that you can be screened as early as possible for GD. Early detection and treatment can help reduce the risk of complications for both mum and baby.
What are the symptoms of GD?
Gestational diabetes may not cause any noticeable symptoms, which is why screening during pregnancy is important. However, some women have reported experiencing the following symptoms:
- Increased thirst and dry mouth: High blood sugar levels can cause dehydration, leading to increased thirst and dry mouth.
- Frequent urination: Excess sugar in the blood can cause the kidneys to work harder, leading to more frequent urination.
- Fatigue: The body may have difficulty using sugar as energy, leading to fatigue and weakness.
- Blurred vision: High blood sugar levels can cause changes in the shape of the lens in the eye, leading to blurred vision.
- Nausea and vomiting: Some women with gestational diabetes may experience nausea and vomiting, which can be a symptom of high blood sugar levels.
- Infections: Women with gestational diabetes may be more prone to infections, such as urinary tract infections and yeast infections.
It’s important to note that these symptoms are not unique to GD and can be caused by other conditions as well. If you experience any of these symptoms during pregnancy, don’t hesitate to talk to your midwife or GP.
How is GD diagnosed?
Gestational diabetes is usually diagnosed between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy through a screening test called the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). The OGTT involves drinking a sweetened solution of glucose and having your blood sugar levels tested before and after drinking the solution.
Here is a general overview of the steps involved in diagnosing GD:
- Initial glucose screening: During your first prenatal visit, your healthcare provider will typically perform an initial glucose screening test. This involves testing your blood sugar levels to see if they are within a normal range.
- OGTT: If your initial glucose screening is normal, you will likely undergo an OGTT between weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy. This test involves drinking a sweetened solution of glucose and having your blood sugar levels tested before and after drinking the solution. If your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, you may be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
- Follow-up testing: If your OGTT results indicate that you have gestational diabetes, your healthcare provider may recommend additional testing to monitor your blood sugar levels and evaluate the effectiveness of your treatment plan.
If you’ve had GD in previous pregnancies, you’ll be screened earlier in the pregnancy and then again at 24 – 28 weeks.
It’s important to attend all scheduled prenatal appointments and follow recommendations for screening and testing for gestational diabetes. Early detection and treatment can help reduce the risk of complications for both you and your baby.
What is the treatment for GD?
The most important thing to do if you have GD is to control your blood sugar levels. If you’re diagnosed with GD, your midwife or GP will give you a blood sugar testing kit so you can monitor your blood sugar levels and see how you respond to treatment.
Some common treatment options include:
- Healthy eating: Your midwife may recommend a diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in fibre, with frequent, small meals throughout the day.
- Exercise: Regular physical activity can help your body use insulin more effectively and keep your blood sugar levels under control. This may include 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, most days of the week.
- Medication: In some cases, medication or insulin therapy may be needed to control blood sugar levels.
- Fetal monitoring: Women with gestational diabetes may need more frequent ultrasound exams to monitor the growth and development of the baby. In some cases, it may be recommended that you have an early delivery to reduce the risk of complications.
Will having GD affect how I give birth?
Gestational diabetes can affect how you give birth, but the extent of the effect will depend on several factors, including the severity of the diabetes and the management of the condition.
Women with GD may be more likely to have a larger baby, which can increase the risk of complications during delivery, such as shoulder dystocia (when the baby’s shoulder gets stuck during delivery) and the need for a C-Section. Additionally, women with GD may have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy, which can also impact delivery options.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. The most important thing is to work closely with your midwife / consultant and follow their advice. With proper treatment and management, most women with GD are able to have a safe and healthy pregnancy and delivery.
Does having GD mean I will have diabetes after pregnancy?
Having GD does increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will definitely develop diabetes after pregnancy.
To reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes after pregnancy, it’s important to maintain healthy lifestyle habits, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regular check-ups with your healthcare provider. You may also need to undergo follow-up testing after pregnancy to monitor your blood sugar levels and evaluate your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.
Being diagnosed with GD can feel quite scary and overwhelming. But it’s important to remember that the condition can be be easily managed with a few lifestyle tweaks, your midwife is always available if you have any concerns and you can still have a healthy and happy pregnancy and birth.
Birthbabe does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The resources on our website are provided for informational purposes only. You should always consult with a healthcare professional regarding any medical diagnoses or treatment options.