Pregnancy diabetes can sometimes interfere with a healthy pregnancy. Fortunately, there are certain steps you can take to keep it under control.
Pregnancy diabetes in a nutshell
Diabetes can develop at any age. It is characterized by an increase of blood glucose (blood sugar levels in the blood), also called “hyperglycemia.” There are three types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and pregnancy diabetes (or gestational diabetes). The latter differs from the others in that it occurs during pregnancy, lasts throughout it, and usually ceases after childbirth.
Pregnancy diabetes is not uncommon, affecting roughly 3 to 20% of pregnant women in Canada. Because of its potential impact on the mother and foetus, diabetes screening is done in all pregnant women between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy, sometimes earlier.
Some symptoms may be indicative of diabetes:
- frequent urges to urinate
- persistent thirst
- increased appetite
- blurred vision
Consult a doctor if you experience similar or any other unusual symptoms at any time during your pregnancy.
The consequences of pregnancy diabetes
Untreated hyperglycemia can have several significant consequences for the mother during and after her pregnancy: vision problems, high blood pressure, increased risk of type 2 diabetes, etc. In the unborn child, maternal hyperglycemia increases insulin production, which can have the following repercussions, among others:
- intrauterine growth restriction
- delayed lung development
- heart problems
- premature birth
- birth weight over 4 kg
- postnatal hypoglycemic episodes
Optimal blood glucose management as soon as you know you have pregnancy diabetes can limit the consequences of the disease.
Managing blood glucose
The goal of treatment for pregnancy diabetes is to control blood glucose levels so that they remain within a healthy range. The first step in achieving this goal is to make lifestyle changes.
A healthy diet can make a big difference, and in some cases, avoid the need for medication. However, it is very important not to choose a diet that excessively reduces calories, as this could affect the baby’s growth.
Regular physical activity is also beneficial, as it contributes to the mother's overall health and helps to maintain blood glucose levels.
Treating and managing blood glucose levels
Despite applying the measures described above, sometimes blood glucose levels are not sufficiently lowered. A drug treatment should be considered promptly. The recommended medication to treat pregnancy diabetes is injectable insulin. It has been shown to be safe and effective during pregnancy.
To achieve blood glucose control, you will need to monitor your blood glucose levels closely using a small device (blood glucose meter). Choosing a meter that suits your taste and lifestyle will make monitoring much easier. Your pharmacist can help you make the right choice.
In short, pregnancy diabetes should not be taken lightly, because your health and that of your child are at stake. Speak to your pharmacist for additional information about pregnancy diabetes and its treatment.