Gestational diabetes is diabetes which occurs during pregnancy (gestation). Gestational diabetes is usually diagnosed between weeks 24-28 by an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). It causes elevated levels of blood sugar/glucose levels which can affect the pregnancy, the health of the mother and the health of the baby. Blood sugars usually return to normal post-partum, however women with gestational diabetes have a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. The prevalence of gestational diabetes (like type 2 diabetes) is on the rise and has increased by 30% in the last decade. Fortunately, there are many tools which can be utilised to both prevent and manage gestational diabetes.
Symptoms of gestational diabetes are rare, but may include
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive urination
- Dry mouth
- Blurry vision
Risk factors for developing gestational diabetes include:
- Being overweight prior to conceiving – though this is not always the case
- High carbohydrate, low protein, low fibre and low healthy fat diet
- Vitamin D deficiency (vitamin D is required for insulin sensitivity)
- Magnesium deficiency (magnesium is required for insulin sensitivity)
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Potential risks of unmanaged gestational diabetes include:
- Increased birth weight
- Increased rate of c-section
- Postnatal infant hypoglycemia
Treatments options for managing gestational diabetes include:
- Vitamin D – if deficient
- Low refined carbohydrate diet – only under the guidance of a nutritionist
- Exercise after eating
- Optimising sleep
Clinically I have seen the impact that nutrient deficiencies such as vitamin D can have on blood glucose levels and diagnosis of gestational diabetes. Thankfully, on supplementation and rectification of said nutrient deficiencies, the gestational diabetes has reversed.
This is one of the reasons why it is so important to undergo comprehensive prenatal screening prior to conceiving. identifying and correcting any nutrient deficiencies, hormone imbalances, blood sugar irregularities prior to conceiving can make a pregnancy much smoother with reduced complications and interventions for both Mum and baby.
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