Martha Jefferson HealthWise--October 15th

Gestational diabetes affects about 4% of all pregnant women. But what exactly is gestational diabetes, and is it harmful to the mother and unborn baby? Joining us today for Martha Jefferson Healthwise is diabetes educator Barbara Martin to explain this condition

WHat is gestational diabetes, and are there any symptoms?

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs only during pregnancy, and typically develops during the second trimester. Like other forms of the disease, gestational diabetes affects the way your body uses glucose – your body's main source of fuel. Gestational diabetes can cause dangerously high blood sugar levels for both the mother and the baby. Rarely, gestational diabetes may cause excessive thirst or increased urination. For most women, however, gestational diabetes doesn't cause noticeable signs or symptoms.

Only about 4 percent of pregnant women have gestational diabetes. WHat causes it to occur?

During pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones to sustain your pregnancy. These hormones make your cells more resistant to insulin. As your placenta grows larger in the second and third trimesters, it secretes more of these hormones, making it even harder for insulin to do its job. Normally, your pancreas responds by producing enough extra insulin to overcome this resistance. But sometimes your pancreas can't keep up. When this happens, too little glucose gets into your cells and too much stays in your blood. This is gestational diabetes.

Since gestational diabetes can be harmful to both mother and baby, what are some ways to prevent it?

There are no guaranteed ways to prevent gestational diabetes. The more healthy habits you can adopt before pregnancy, however, the better. First, eat healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Second, aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day. Try taking a brisk daily walk, swimming laps, or practicing prenatal yoga. Weight loss during pregnancy isn't usually recommended, but if you're planning ahead losing weight may help you have a healthier pregnancy.

How is gestational diabetes treated?

Controlling your blood sugar level is essential to keeping your baby healthy and avoiding complications during delivery. Your treatment plan may include blood sugar monitoring, eating the right kind of food including the elimination of high sugar foods, and exercise. If diet and exercise aren't enough, you may need insulin injections to lower your blood sugar level. For some women, oral medications may be an option as well. Learning as much as possible about gestational diabetes can also help pregnant women feel more in control of their situation, and motivated to stick to diet and exercise plans for the health of themselves and their babies.

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