I currently work on a clinical trial that involves exclusively pregnant women that develop Gestational Diabetes (GDM). I have learned over the last few months that there is not much awareness amongst women around this medical condition, and that is not great given GDM is on a rise. So this blog post is simply giving you an insight into what Gestational Diabetes is and what you can do to reduce your risks.
There are many types of diabetes, and the more common types that we often hear about are type 1 and type 2. Gestational Diabetes is a different type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy and puts both mother and baby at risk.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational Diabetes manifests as high blood sugar (glucose). It develops during pregnancy and usually goes away after giving birth. If you have GDM, you need to take extra care of yourself and your bump.
What causes Gestational Diabetes?
The causes of GDM are not fully understood yet but they are likely to be due to hormonal changes.
During pregnancy, many changes happen to a woman’s body. Some of these changes affect hormone production such as insulin. Insulin’s role in the body is to control blood sugar levels. When GDM develops, your body is unable to produce enough of this hormone to meet extra needs in pregnancy. This causes you to have high blood sugar levels.
The baby receives its nutrients and oxygen from their mother’s blood through the placenta. High levels of sugar in the blood can pass through the placenta to the baby and affect their growth.
How common is Gestational Diabetes?
35,000 pregnancies are affected every year by gestational diabetes (GDM) in the UK. However, the COVID pandemic increased rates of gestational diabetes by 10%.
What are the risk factors?
Any woman can develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy but you are at an increased risk if:
- you are living with obesity and gained excessive weight during pregnancy
- you previously delivered a baby weighing 4.5kg (10lb) or more at birth
- you had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- you have an immediate family member with diabetes
- you belong to a certain race or ethnicity, such as South Asian, Black, African-Caribbean or Middle Eastern (even if you were born in the UK)
It is normal to gain weight during pregnancy; however, excessive weight gain can cause health problems for both mother and child. Babies of women with excessive gestational weight gain have increased body weight, higher fat mass, and increased blood pressure.
It is recommended that women who are at a healthy weight gain 11.4-15.9 kg during pregnancy, women who are living overweight gain 6.8-11.4 kg, and women living with obesity gain 5.0-9.1 kg. Currently, there are no weight targets to guide management in women living with gestational diabetes.
When is gestational diabetes diagnosed?
Gestational diabetes tends to be diagnosed at 24 to 28 weeks gestation.
What are the complications?
GDM causes health problems for mothers and children, such as large-for-gestational-age (LGA) and difficult deliveries. GDM also puts women at risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiometabolic disease in later life.
How to lower your risks?
Women often do not experience any symptoms, therefore it is important you go and see your Dr when you first think about trying to get pregnant.
Lifestyle factors that are important to reduce risks of developing gestational diabetes:
- Manage your weight
- Eat a healthy balanced diet
- Stay active
- Look after your mental wellbeing
- Get regular checkups
It is not easy to make lifestyle changes and some people really benefit from that extra support. Therefore, if you are planning to get pregnant and want to manage your body weight as well as improve your health and well-being but are not sure where to start or need that extra support, please contact me! I would love to support you through this health journey. Visit my page to learn more about how we can work together.