Gestational Diabetes: What is it & What can you do about it?

Gestational Diabetes: What is it & What can you do about it?

As a labor and birth doula, I’m sure you can imagine the types of questions I get from expecting mothers and couples who are beginning the planning process for starting their families. Everything from what vitamins to take and calculating due dates to safe exercises and, “What’s with this nasty heartburn all of a sudden?” are all par for the course. From the little stuff to the big stuff, my goal is always to set your mind at ease because at the end of the day, a happy and stress free client means a happy and healthy pregnancy.

When it comes to the bigger pregnancy concerns, some of the most common questions I get are about gestational diabetes because right now it seems that gestational diabetes is somewhat of an epidemic. I’ve found that the more information an expecting family can get their hands on, the better equipt she feels to handle it, and one of the biggest things I stress from the start is that, in most cases, it is very manageable.

 

To better understand what gestational diabetes is it helps to go over the most commonly asked questions:

What is diabetes?

Diabetes type 1, formerly known as juvenile-onset or insulin dependant diabetes, is not currently preventable and occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin. This insulin is needed in order for blood to absorb the sugars necessary to produce energy. Over time, if not treated properly, type 1 diabetes can lead to complications such as heart disease, kidney damage, nerve damage and eye damage. Type 1 diabetes can be managed with insulin injections and a healthy diet.

Type 2 diabetes is preventable and is more common in adults and happens when the body can’t figure out how to use the insulin it’s producing in the correct way. If left untreated, type 2 can cause damage to the pancreas (the organ responsible for insulin production) and can lead to type 1 over time. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented and is managed by simply maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet are all part of the prevention plan and can even reverse it. Insulin therapy is sometimes necessary in treatment.

What makes gestational diabetes different from type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Where type 1 and type 2 can affect anyone, gestational diabetes only appears in pregnant women. While there’s no medically accepted answer for what causes it, it’s a widely accepted theory that it can be caused by a predisposition to diabetes, poor dietary habits, and manifests itself in women who may be considered overweight.

Is gestational diabetes reversible?

So far all of this may seem a little heavy and scary, so here’s the good news you’ve been waiting for! Gestational diabetes is completely reversible and when managed properly, has no effect on the health of the baby.

At one time it was believed, and is sometimes still believed, that gestational diabetes can be the cause of a very large baby. For one, I have not often seen this correlation in my practice amongst my clients. I have seen more of the fact that larger sized babies are genetic. But, guess what? Size doesn’t matter!  The size of your baby does not make your labor more painful or even longer, nor does it mean that your baby “can’t fit.” Your baby may just need a little longer window during the pushing phase to open your tissues more smoothly, this is where a doula really comes in handy!

Can gestational diabetes cause premature labor?

If undiagnosed and untreated, gestational diabetes has been linked to causing premature birth. However, as I mentioned before, it is VERY manageable as long as you work with your healthcare professional to stay on top of it.

How is gestational diabetes managed?

It’s fairly standard now for women to be given a glucose test to test for gestational diabetes at around 20 – 28 weeks. If diagnosed, most cases can be managed with dietary changes and light, doctor approved exercise. In some cases insulin treatments are needed in addition to diet and exercise. In our Doula practice, we offer complimentary coaching for managing your diet and finding the right exercise regimen for you. Our Prenatal Yoga Classes are designed specifically for pregnancy and are found to be very helpful for those with gestational diabetes.

The important thing to remember is that, although gestational diabetes should be taken very seriously, it doesn’t have to be this big scary thing that defines your pregnancy. I’ve worked with many expecting mothers who go on to have a wonderful pregnancy experience and a successful birth. It’s always my goal to ensure you have what you need to stay happy and healthy throughout your pregnancy so that you can focus on making your transition into motherhood easily and smoothly.

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