Read our article to learn everything about gestational diabetes. We also mentioned the recommendations of experts and experienced mothers about diabetes and pregnancy.
Looking back, Linda Anderson of Dallas, California, suspects she may have had diabetes when she was pregnant with her first child, now 17. But her physician did not diagnose her with diabetes until she was 30 years old and pregnant with her second child.
“I did not know I had diabetes until the sixth month,” says Anderson, who has Type I diabetes. “I found out through a blood test. They take your blood every month. It showed up.”
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), some women learn they have Type I or Type II diabetes while they are pregnant. However, according to the ADA, about 4 percent of all pregnant women suffer from gestational diabetes. With gestational diabetes, women experience high blood-sugar levels during pregnancy. The condition usually goes away after pregnancy.
Anderson, however, continues to live with diabetes today. “I had to go into the hospital for three days, and they monitored everything and gave me an educational course about what I needed to do,” she says. “I had to change my diet and I had to go on insulin while I was pregnant.”
Check our article for recommendations on diet in pregnancy : How Should a Pregnancy Diet be?
Anderson immediately made changes to her diet, such as concentrating on protein, fruits and vegetables as opposed to refined foods. “I was concerned about the baby,” she says. “You can have a premature baby when you are diabetic, which I did with my first. She was seven and a half weeks early. They think I had diabetes then, too.”
About two years after the birth of her second child, Anderson started experiencing serious Type I diabetes symptoms and became insulin dependent. “It was dramatic,” she says. “I had blurred vision. I thought I needed glasses. They took me in and said, ‘Have you ever had any problem with diabetes?’ I said, ‘Yes. When I was pregnant.'”
Diabetes Puts Infants at Risk
Although gestational diabetes often goes away after pregnancy, chances are two in three that the problem will return in future pregnancies. And infants born to women with diabetes are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes as adults, experts say.
Both Anderson’s daughters have diabetes, but the three women support one another. “Although it is a disease, it is a choice, too, how you monitor it,” Anderson says. “We monitor it as much as we can.”
With more knowledge and scientific advances, most women with diabetes can give birth to a healthy infant. Some women with diabetes have very large babies, putting them at risk for a Cesarean section.
In turn, having a surgical birth puts the baby at greater risk for experiencing jaundice or breathing problems. The reason many infants become so large is because women with diabetes have too much sugar in their blood, which crosses the placenta to the baby.
To learn more about jaundice in babies : What is the Newborn Jaundice?
Despite the challenges of giving birth with diabetes, there are many steps women can take to ensure a healthier pregnancy and child.
Diabetes Meal Planning
Hope Warshaw of Alexandria, Va., a nutrition expert and diabetes educator, says women who are pregnant cannot use oral diabetes medication because it is not approved. She says physicians are even more diligent to keep a tighter control on a woman’s blood-glucose level when she is pregnant.
“The vast majority of women should be tested between weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy for gestational diabetes,” she says. “There are definitely more women with gestational diabetes and there are more women who don’t even know when they become pregnant that they have Type II diabetes. The whole line of the age that people are getting diabetes is moving younger and it’s moving into childbearing years. It has brought up a lot of issues around women of childbearing years.”
Warshaw says most experts agree women with diabetes need to eat six small meals a day so they are eating more often and keeping their blood sugar stable. “There’s really never been one set of gestational diabetes nutrition recommendations,” she says. “There are some people who suggest minimal carbs in the morning because people tend to have more insulin resistance and problem with blood sugar being higher in the morning. There are some people who don’t buy into that philosophy.”
Take a look to learn more about carbs during pregnancy : Counting Carbs Is It Safe to Do During Pregnancy.
Most experts agree it is important for people with diabetes to avoid processed, refined foods. Instead of white flours, white rice, sugar and packaged foods, combine lean protein with fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
By becoming educated about diabetes, learning to control their blood sugar levels, exercising and making smart changes to their diets, women with diabetes minimize risks to themselves and their children.
If you are not sure you have diabetes, make a list of your signs and symptoms, separating the common “morning sickness” and diabetes symptoms such as increased thirst. Advise your doctor you think you may have diabetes, and have a complete physical and blood test as soon as possible after becoming pregnant.
Check this article about morning sickness : Overcoming Morning Sickness.
The names of the people mentioned in the article have been changed for security reasons.