Diabetes that occurs during pregnancy is called gestational diabetes. Like any diabetes, your body cannot effectively get your blood sugar into your cells to use for energy. The glucose then remains in your blood stream, driving up your blood sugar levels. We don’t know why women who do not have elevated blood sugar levels before they become pregnant develop diabetes while pregnant. In most cases, the blood sugar will return to normal levels after delivery. However, some women who develop gestational diabetes will not be able to achieve a normal blood sugar level after their deliveries. Even if blood sugar levels go back to normal after delivery, 50 percent will develop Type 2 diabetes as they get older.
You will be checked for gestational diabetes when you are between 24 and 28 weeks pregnant. However, if you notice signs of gestational diabetes before then, call your doctor.
High blood pressure often accompanies gestational diabetes. We don’t really know why the two often go together or if there’s some sort of causal relationship between the two. I have always encouraged my patients to check their blood pressure at home every day even if they don’t have gestational diabetes. If they do, it’s especially important to check blood pressure daily. My experience helping women manage blood pressures at home dates back to 1980. Blood pressure cuffs for home use are relatively inexpensive. There is much variability in blood pressures in pregnancy, and each patient is different. Depending upon blood pressures, I had some patients come to the office for blood pressure checks twice a week, depending upon what the patient’s blood pressure was at the start of pregnancy, what the patient’s blood pressure was during the office visit, and how far along the patient is in her pregnancy.
Even though there is no cure for gestational diabetes, there are several options for managing your blood sugar levels. Eating a healthy diet is first on the list, and since a healthy diet is bandied about so much, it seems like a ho-hum suggestion. When you’re pregnant, it’s not time to try to lose weight with any of the currently in diet regimens. When pregnant, eat protein, fat, and carbohydrates with each meal. From my experience, eating a good breakfast of some kind of breakfast meat, eggs, and toast works well to keep the blood sugar under control for the rest of the day. You should test your blood sugar levels once a day.
Exercising is also a good way to control blood sugar. If you had an exercise routine before you were pregnant, it should be safe to continue with what you were doing unless you feel a need to cut back. Just don’t up your exercise level while pregnant.
In my experience, the vast majority of women with gestational diabetes can control their blood sugar levels with diet and exercise. However, if you are unable to control your blood sugar levels, your obstetrician may prescribe oral medications to help keep your blood sugar levels normal. And finally, there are fairly infrequent instances in which you may have to take insulin. In my practice, I had only four women I had to put on insulin to control their gestational diabetes.