Welcome to a comprehensive guide on one of the most critical health issues that women may encounter during pregnancy—Gestational Diabetes. As an experienced Ayurvedic practitioner specializing in women’s health and wellness, I’m here to shed light on the nuances of this condition, its causes, symptoms, and the potential effects on your baby.
From the first signs of gestational diabetes, the effect on your unborn baby, to whether too much sugar can trigger it, this article aims to answer all your burning questions. Understand why gestational diabetes is most common in a certain age group, and learn the alarming signs, such as changes in your urine color.
With years of experience in providing Ayurvedic natural treatments, my goal is to empower you with knowledge and understanding of your body, facilitating better control over your health. Let’s dive in and explore gestational diabetes, leaving no stone unturned.
Understanding Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is a condition that occurs exclusively in pregnancy. It affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar or glucose levels, leading to higher than normal levels of glucose in the blood. This condition typically surfaces in the second or third trimester, particularly in women with no prior history of diabetes.
In the past few years, the incidence of gestational diabetes has increased multi-folds, especially for Asian origin women! Once gestational diabetes is diagnosed, one needs to be highly vigilant of their diet and physical activity to manage the blood sugar level within a safe range. Gestational diabetes may subside or may continue post full term.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that is first diagnosed during pregnancy. Unlike Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes is not a permanent condition but does need immediate attention and management to ensure the health of both mother and baby.
Types of Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is classified into 2 levels based on the required level of intervention for the management of the condition:
- Class A1 – It can be controlled by diet and physical activity
- Class A2 – It needs to be managed by insulin and/or oral medications.
The First Signs of Gestational Diabetes
Gestational Diabetes often does not come with explicit symptoms, and many women may not even realize they have it. This makes routine screening during pregnancy vitally important. However, some signs may indicate the presence of gestational diabetes.
The 10 Warning Signs
Gestational diabetes can present with some subtle and sometimes, easily ignored signs. It’s crucial to be vigilant about the following symptoms:
1. Frequent Urination
A noticeable increase in the frequency of urination can be an early warning sign of gestational diabetes.
2. Excessive Thirst
Along with frequent urination, an unusual increase in thirst is another common symptom.
Feeling excessively tired or drained, despite getting adequate rest, can be a warning sign.
4. Sugar in Urine (glycosuria)
During routine checks, your healthcare provider might detect sugar in your urine.
5. Blurred Vision
Occasionally, gestational diabetes might cause your vision to blur, which should not be ignored.
6. Frequent Infections
A propensity for recurrent infections, particularly vaginal, bladder, and skin infections, can indicate gestational diabetes.
A persistent feeling of nausea, not unlike morning sickness, could be a symptom.
8. Weight Gain
Unexpected or rapid weight gain could be an indirect sign of gestational diabetes.
A sudden increase in snoring can be an overlooked symptom of gestational diabetes.
10. Slow Healing of Cuts and Wounds
If you observe that your wounds are healing slower than usual, it may point towards gestational diabetes.
Causes and Triggers of Gestational Diabetes
The exact cause of gestational diabetes isn’t completely understood, but several factors can play a role in triggering the condition. These include hormonal changes, genetic factors, being overweight or obese, age, a history of gestational diabetes or prediabetes, and conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
During pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones necessary for the baby’s development. While these hormones are essential for the growing fetus, they can create “insulin resistance” in the mother’s body, making it harder for her body to use insulin effectively. This condition is known as “hormonal changes.”
Genetic factors also play a role in triggering gestational diabetes. If you have a family history of diabetes, you are more likely to develop gestational diabetes during your pregnancy.
Your weight can also influence your chances of developing gestational diabetes. If you are overweight or obese before you become pregnant, your body may already be resistant to insulin. This resistance can increase during pregnancy, potentially leading to gestational diabetes.
Age is another risk factor for gestational diabetes. Women over the age of 25 have a higher risk of developing the condition. This risk continues to increase with age.
If you have had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy, or if you had prediabetes before your pregnancy, your risk of developing gestational diabetes again is higher.
Finally, certain health conditions can increase your risk of gestational diabetes. Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a condition that affects a woman’s hormone levels, are more likely to develop gestational diabetes because PCOS is associated with inherent insulin resistance.
Development of Gestational Diabetes
Gestational Diabetes usually develops due to preexisting hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) and insulin resistance, which gets aggravated during pregnancy.
Here’s what happens!
- As the pregnancy progresses, the baby needs more and more support in the form of nutrients to develop and grow. To support this process, the placenta secretes multiple hormones such as human placental lactogen, progesterone, prolactin, and cortisol.
- These hormones can often disturb the function and level of insulin (another hormone by pancreas) in a mother’s body. She may develop temporary high insulin levels and or insulin resistance.
- As a result of temporary insulin resistance, mother may also develop glucose intolerance and high blood sugar levels. This is termed as gestational diabetes.
- Now, as the level of placental hormones increases during the last phase of pregnancy, mostly women develop gestational diabetes at that time. Hence, the test for diabetes in pregnancy is done in the 24-28th week in pregnancy.
How is Gestational Diabetes diagnosed?
Placental hormones progressively increase Insulin Resistance with pregnancy. It often triggers gestational diabetes in the third trimester.
For women with no past history of diabetes or blood sugar at a normal level at the beginning of pregnancy, the gestational diabetes test is done around 24-28 weeks.
For women who are prone to gestational diabetes due to past history, high BMI, or existing Diabetics; pre-screening for gestational diabetes is done at the first prenatal visit.
Glucose challenge test
Gestational diabetes is confirmed in 2 ways depending on the national norms and the doctor. These are called as one-step testing and two-step testing as explained below.
1. One-step test
- First, you undergo the test of fasting (overnight fasting for at least 8 hours) blood sugar
- You are given 75 grams (g) of glucose solution to drink.
- Blood sugar levels are checked repeatedly after one hour and two hours.
Gestational diabetes is confirmed by the Doctor if your blood sugar level is higher than any of the following values.
|Time of Test||The blood Sugar level is higher than or equal to (mg/dL) |
milligrams per deciliter
2. Two-step test
For the two-step test, fasting isn’t required. The patient is provided with a 50g glucose solution to be consumed orally.
After one hour, blood sugar is tested. If the blood sugar level is greater than or equal to 130 mg/dL or 140 mg/dL, a second step test is done for gestational diabetes confirmation.
The threshold for the first test is decided by the Doctor according to the patient’s profile and history. The second test is conducted on another visit.
- In the second test, the fasting blood sugar level is also checked.
- A 100 g glucose solution is consumed orally after fasting for a minimum of 8 hours.
- After the consumption of glucose, blood sugar is tested at one, two, and three hours.
Gestational diabetes confirmation is done if any of the 2 or more values are higher than the stated range. These values are based on Carpenter guidelines.
|Time of Test||The blood Sugar level is higher than or equal to (mg/dL) |
milligrams per deciliter
Importance of Managing Gestational Diabetes
Managing gestational diabetes is crucial for the health of both the mother and the baby. Uncontrolled gestational diabetes can lead to various complications, including:
Health Risks to Mother during Gestational Diabetes
If gestational diabetes is not properly managed, the blood sugar levels will stay high throughout the pregnancy. This can cause many complications and possibly harm both the mother and the baby.
With gestational diabetes , a mother has higher chances to face:
- pregnancy-induced hypertension
- antepartum hemorrhage
- preterm labor
- cesarean delivery
Some of them can be avoided by managing gestational diabetes well.
However, others such as higher susceptibility of the baby and the mother towards Diabetes at a later stage needs to be tightly controlled post delivery.
Health Risks to Baby during Gestational Diabetes
High blood sugar levels in the mother can make the baby grow too large (macrosomia), which can lead to problems with delivery. It can also lead to the baby developing low blood glucose (hypoglycemia) after birth and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes later in life.
- high birth weight of the baby and hence higher possibility of cesarean section birth
- post birth unit care requirement
- high-intensity jaundice after delivery
- baby will have much higher chances of developing metabolic disorders, Diabetes, cardiovascular disorders
- congenital malformation
- difficulties during labor
- higher risk of diabetes in future
- a risk to the life of baby and mother such as stillbirth, neonatal deaths, or perinatal mortality
How would Gestational diabetes affect the Delivery?
As stated earlier, gestational diabetes poses multiple health risks to the baby and to the mother. Should one be diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it is necessary to make the required changes to diet and lifestyle and or take medications along with. While management is necessary, gestational diabetes could still affect baby delivery via:
1. Cesarean section delivery
One should be mentally prepared for the requirement of C-section in case of emergency due to sudden changes in blood pressure, blood sugar, heartbeat, or planned due to the size of the baby.
2. Requirement of insulin during delivery
Blood sugar levels must be maintained during labor and delivery as hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) in the mother leads to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in the newborn.
When a mother has GDM, she may require insulin support either via a shot or via a plastic tube.
3. Pre-term delivery
This may be required if pre-eclampsia (sudden high blood pressure) develops during the third trimester.
Should this happen, then the only solution to save the life of mother and baby is via early delivery. Apart from this, early delivery may need to be planned for various other reasons including the size of the baby.
The risk to the life of Mother and baby due to the possibility of Still Birth, Perinatal Mortality, or Neonatal Death.
Managing Gestational Diabetes after the birth of the baby
Women with gestational diabetes have a 40% higher chance of developing Diabetes later in life. Studies indicate that there is a 60% chance of developing type 2 diabetes within 4 years.
That’s why you should manage your blood sugar levels with appropriate changes in diet and lifestyle not just during pregnancy but much after as well.
After delivery, your doctor will recommend you to monitor your blood sugar levels on a regular basis. After 6 weeks of delivery, the blood test is conducted to check whether the glucose level has turned to normal. Based on this, one would fall into 3 possible categories:
- Normal: Blood glucose level has returned to normal after all the hormonal changes have balanced out.
- Impaired Glucose/Insulin Tolerance: This would require tight monitoring of blood glucose and also permanent changes to diet and lifestyle.
- Diabetic: May or may not require medication. Dietary and lifestyle changes are mandatory.
Treatment and Management of Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes treatment depends on the blood sugar levels of the whole day. Most of the time, doctors advise you to test your blood sugar before and after meals and to manage your blood sugar with diet and exercise.
It has been observed that non-invasive and natural techniques such as Yoga, Diet Management and Exercise have a positive effect on the overall well being of mother and baby.
On the other hand, some women may require oral medications or insulin support when lifestyle changes are not enough.
This is assessed after regular monitoring and observing elevated blood glucose levels even after 2 weeks of changes in diet. Oral medications and insulin usually come along with possible side effects.
Insulin Support to manage Gestational Diabetes
As per Mayo Clinic, about 10 to 20 percent of women with gestational diabetes require insulin to reduce the blood cholesterol level.
These women may need insulin till their delivery. Always ask your doctor about the timing of taking insulin to avoid lower blood sugar level as it may cause harm both for you and your baby.
He may advise you about how to handle the condition when your blood sugar level falls too much.
Navigating the journey of pregnancy with the added concern of gestational diabetes can be challenging. We understand how hard it can be to find effective, personalized solutions that cater to your unique symptoms and experiences. The anxiety of potentially complicating your baby’s health further adds to the stress. However, it’s crucial to remember that with the right care and guidance, you can manage this condition effectively.
At Medhya Herbals, we specialize in Ayurvedic treatments that target the root cause of health conditions, instead of merely managing symptoms. Our experienced Ayurvedic doctors can create a personalized treatment plan for managing gestational diabetes that aligns with your lifestyle and overall health. Our approach combines dietary recommendations, lifestyle modifications, and time-tested Ayurvedic remedies, promising a holistic path towards health and wellness.
We invite you to schedule a consultation with our Ayurvedic doctors who can guide you through this journey with empathy and expertise. We aim to provide a safe, nurturing environment where you can find permanent relief and peace of mind. Remember, gestational diabetes is a moment in your life, not your life. Together, let’s step into a healthier future for both you and your baby.
Can Eating Too Much Sugar Cause Gestational Diabetes?
Eating too much sugar does not directly cause gestational diabetes. However, consuming an excessive amount of sugary foods can contribute to weight gain and obesity, which are risk factors for gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is caused primarily due to hormonal changes during pregnancy that affect the body’s ability to use insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar. During pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones that can lead to a buildup of glucose in your blood. Normally, the pancreas can compensate by producing more insulin. However, in some women, the pancreas can’t keep up, leading to gestational diabetes.
While consuming too much sugar doesn’t directly cause gestational diabetes, maintaining a balanced diet is crucial for overall health and can help manage your blood glucose levels. This becomes particularly important during pregnancy, when the body’s insulin needs are higher. Foods high in refined sugars can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, leading to greater insulin demand. Over time, this could strain your body’s ability to produce and use insulin effectively.
When Gestational Diabetes Usually Starts?
Gestational Diabetes typically begins in the second half of pregnancy, most commonly between the 24th and 28th week. The exact timing can vary among individuals, and it’s important to note that it can develop at any time during pregnancy.
The condition occurs as a result of hormonal changes that affect the body’s ability to process insulin effectively. The placenta supports the baby as it grows and also produces hormones that can lead to insulin resistance. These hormonal changes mean that your body must produce three times the normal amount of insulin.
If your body can’t meet this increased demand, blood sugar levels will rise, resulting in gestational diabetes. Therefore, regular screenings for gestational diabetes are an essential part of prenatal care, particularly from the 24th week of pregnancy onwards.
How Your Body Feels with Gestational Diabetes?
Beyond the common gestational diabetes symptoms, the condition can might make your body feel different. For instance, you may experience a consistent feeling of fatigue or heaviness, regardless of the amount of rest you get. Or, you might feel thirsty frequently and find yourself urinating more than you usually do. It’s important to be in tune with your body and pay attention to these changes. Early detection and proper management are the best strategies to tackle gestational diabetes.
High Blood Sugar: How it Feels and its Consequences
High blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, can bring about a range of symptoms and long-term consequences if left uncontrolled. It’s crucial to understand these effects to manage your condition effectively and ensure the best possible outcome for you and your baby.
When blood sugar levels rise, your body attempts to flush out the excess glucose through increased urination. This process often leads to dehydration, which can cause intense thirst and dry mouth. In some cases, high blood sugar levels can lead to blurred vision, headaches, fatigue, and even nausea or vomiting.
One of the common signs of high blood sugar is a general feeling of being unwell. You might feel persistently tired, even after a good night’s sleep, and have difficulty concentrating. Your mood can also be affected, leading to irritability or quick changes in your emotional state.
The consequences of uncontrolled high blood sugar can be severe. In the short term, it can lead to a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which is a medical emergency. DKA occurs when your body starts breaking down fats too quickly, causing a build-up of ketones in your blood and urine.
Long-term consequences of high blood sugar include an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes after pregnancy, future cardiovascular disease, and even certain types of cancer. Gestational diabetes also increases the risk of the baby developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Frequent Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar) during Pregnancy
Poor insulin response and unregulated blood sugar levels during pregnancy with diabetes may also put you at risk of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar level episodes.
If that happens, then you may struggle with frequent hypoglycemia symptoms:
- Drowsiness/ light-headedness;
- Difficulty speaking;
- Feeling weak/fainted – Blackout or passing out
- Blurred Vision
How to avoid hypoglycemia during Gestational Diabetes?
To avoid low blood sugar levels, you should always keep natural sources of glucose such as healthy snacks and stay hydrated. This is more relevant when you undertake exercise.
Here are few things that you can take:
- Handful of seeds with raisins or dates
- 3-4 glucose tablets (either dissolved in water or taken as such)
- 1/2 a cup of fresh fruit juice
- 1 cup of milk
- A teaspoon of raw honey
- Fresh coconut water
- A glass of lemonade
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- Ayurvedic Management of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus – A Case Study
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- Exercise guidelines for gestational diabetes mellitus
- Systematic Review of Yoga for Pregnant Women: Current Status and Future Directions