In a recent news article by TODAY in 2017, it is estimated that at least one out of four mothers in Singapore suffer from gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Hospitals have reported an ever-increasing number of patients who are diagnosed with the disease, with National University Hospital (NUH) reporting an annual intake of about 800 patients - a fourfold increase from the last decade. Did you know diabetes during pregnancy affects Baby and its development? Find out more about this silent affliction that might cause complications that will affect your experience of a wonderful childbirth!
What is Gestational Diabetes (GDM)?
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that exclusively occurs during pregnancy. Sharing similarities to the general condition, gestational diabetes occurs when your body is unable to produce enough insulin to convert the glucose in your bloodstream into much needed energy. Due to the rapid developments that your body goes through to accommodate your newborn – such as hormonal changes or weight gain – this may also cause your body cells to utilize insulin less effectively than usual.
The chances of being diagnosed for gestational diabetes are higher if you’ve suffered from a pre-existing history of diabetes before being pregnant. Patients who are overweight or have immediate family members suffering from diabetes are at a similar risk as well.
What’s more frightening is how the symptoms of gestational diabetes are often unnoticeable to many mothers. Other than constantly feeling tired, having a dry mouth and urinating, this disease can go unchecked without proper screening.
How dangerous is GDM to the development of the baby?
The risk of gestational diabetes to your unborn child can vary, depending on your current condition. The high glucose levels in your bloodstream can similarly cause your baby to suffer from high blood sugar, disrupting their development. This will eventually lead to further complications, such as jaundice and macrosomia - a disorder where your baby will be born with a larger than normal body.
As this recent news article from USA Today has highlighted, pregnant women affected by gestational diabetes are more likely to experience difficulties during childbirth - such as internal bleeding, long-term nerve damage or even stillbirth. Babies who are born from mothers suffering from the disease are also prone to obesity and type 2 diabetes in their lives.
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How do you prevent GDM?
If you are overweight, consider shedding some weight before getting conceived to lower your risk of developing gestational diabetes. In 2016, UK’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has encouraged aspiring mothers to pick up aerobic exercises - such as running, swimming or dancing – for at least three times a week to lower diabetes during pregnancy.
Even for pregnant mothers, a light exercise regime is still a great way to prevent gestational diabetes and other health-related issues during childbirth. Expectant mothers who perform at least 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week can cut down the risk of developing the disease by a significant amount.
A healthy diet can also prove valuable in preventing the onset of gestational diabetes. A recent study conducted by the UK’s Global Diabetes Community has shown that participants who have signed up for their ten-week low carb/high fat program have reported a significant improvement in their blood glucose levels and a healthy weight loss. Others have also recovered well enough for them to give up on their reliance on medication.
Where do I go for a GDM checkup?
If you happen to have a pre-existing history of diabetes, a high body mass index, or have an immediate family member that has developed the disease before, your doctor might send you for a screening for gestational diabetes during your first prenatal visit. This is because such conditions will put you in a higher risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy. Otherwise, the routine screening will instead fall on your second trimester, between the 24th and 28th week.
The screening will usually include a glucose challenge test (GCT) to check on how efficient your body processes sugar. During this test, you’ll be given a sugar solution which you’ll need to drink within five minutes. An hour later, a blood sample will be taken from your arm to check on your current blood sugar level.
If your blood sample reading is abnormally high, your doctor will require you to undergo a glucose tolerance test (GTT). Similar to the GCT, this longer and more thorough exam will instead require you to drink a more concentrated sugar solution and go through three blood samples within the span of three hours. You’ll be diagnosed with gestational diabetes when two or more of your readings from the GTT turn out as abnormal.
What happens when I have GDM?
When you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, your doctor will recommend you to a diabetes specialist or a nutritionist for a treatment plan catered to your condition. This will often involve a healthy change in dietary intake, getting regular exercise as well as constantly monitoring your unborn baby’s health and well-being.
For those affected with gestational diabetes, coping with the disease can be very challenging. It’ll be tough to give up on the food that you love, as well as getting used to an exercise regime when you’ve rarely put on your running shoes. However, rest assured that you’re not alone in your struggles. Plenty of women around the world commonly suffer from the disease and many of them have gone on to deliver healthy babies without any complications.
Should you find yourself finding issues in sticking with your treatment, consult your doctor for an alternative solution or seek help from support groups like the Stork’s Nest or Mother & Child to keep you going strong in the fight against gestational diabetes. The hardship will all be worth it when you finally bring your precious healthy baby into the world, despite having diabetes during pregnancy!
Securing the services of a confinement nanny can also be helpful in your plight, as they're able to advise and whip up a proper diet plan for your medical condition. Their special post-natal recipes - ranging from herbal soups, tonics and stews - are both healthy and nutritious alternatives to the usual home-cooked meals.
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