Growing a baby when you have gestational diabetes (GD) means it’s time to seriously get your health groove on. Though GD is serious—but manageable—for you, it puts your baby is at significant risk for developmental issues and puts both of you at risk of having lifetime health concerns.
Any woman can develop gestational diabetes because pregnancy (gestation) causes so many changes in her body, the biggest of which is a tremendous increase in hormones. Some of those inhibit the conversion of sugar into energy, leaving that sugar in the bloodstream—the cause of all diabetes.
Though symptoms of GD can be mild—or even non-existent—it can cause
- Blurred vision
- Excessive thirst and urination
- Nausea and vomiting not associated with normal pregnancy
- Weight loss
- Increased rate of infections, particularly in the urinary tract (bladder), vagina, and skin
More importantly, having undiagnosed GD sets you up for having high blood pressure and preeclampsia that can be life threatening to you and baby.
And it increases your chance of having either gestational diabetes with subsequent pregnancies, or living with chronic Type 2.
Fortunately, many women with GD give birth to healthy babies. Controlling blood sugar can prevent a difficult birth and keep you and your baby healthy.
Trying to grow in the sugar soup of gestational diabetes can negatively affect how baby forms her parts, and how those parts work during her life. Birth defects are six times more likely for babies of mothers with GD.
The major risks for baby are
- Excessive birth weight – makes baby too large to pass through the birth canal, causes birthing injuries, or requires a C-section birth
- Pre-term/premature birth – can mean baby isn’t fully formed or her systems aren’t fully functioning. Respiratory distress syndrome is common in premature infants, but babies born from mothers with GD can have this even if they are full term.
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) – can cause seizures in new babies
- Stillbirth – fetal death
- Type 2 diabetes later in life – juvenile obesity and Type 2 diabetes are common in babies who developed while Mom had GD
Surging rates of Type 1 diabetes have reached serious proportions in many countries—it’s one of the most common chronic childhood illnesses in the US. In the US, 15,000 people are diagnosed every year and the global diabetes rate for children under 5 years old has doubled in the last 20 years.
- most modern diets are full of refined sugar and empty carbohydrates that convert to sugar in our body
- many, many children start eating sugar from birth
- sugar is a go-to soother for parents and children alike.
- many children (and adults!) don’t get enough exercise to burn off their sugar intake.
Sugar + lack of exercise is a one-two punch that sets up our children for a lifetime of problems and pain.
If you are still planning your pregnancy and birth, eating a healthy diet and getting sufficient exercise can prevent GD. If you are pregnant, diagnosing and controlling your GD is the first step toward a lifetime of health for you and your family.
Your baby’s taste preferences are largely formed in utero—use your pregnancy to change your diet and find delicious ways to develop healthy food preferences by eliminating refined sugar and empty carbs.
Find a walking buddy, gym, or prenatal exercise class that helps you get at least 30 minutes a day of exercise.
State in your birth plan that you want sugar-free and healthy food during your hospital stay. Include healthy snacks on your hospital bag checklist so you take them with you to eat during or after labor.
Ask your care provider for nutrition suggestions or substitutions, and for connections to support groups that can help you stay committed to your dietary changes, taking your meds, and inspire you to exercise appropriately.
To learn more about your best pregnancy, download our free Birth Plan eBook now. After three years of research, collaboration with more than 100 childbirth experts and resource centers from Healthy Child Healthy World to the American Association of Neonatal Nurses, the Best Ever Baby Birth Plan Guide is available for a free download.
This new resource for pregnant families is a compilation of top tips and advice from more than 20 nationally-recognized experts in the field including renowned pediatrician, Dr. Alan Greene and GraceFull Birthing founder, midwife Elizabeth Bachner. These trusted experts offer thoughtful guidance for whatever type of birthing experience parents want, in whichever setting they choose.
Published: July 3, 2017 | By SP Turgon, Certified Labor Doula | Reviewed by: The Best Ever Baby Expert Team | Last reviewed: July, 2017