Most people are quick to associate diabetes with an older population and years of poor lifestyle habits. But the over-40 crowd isn’t the only group at risk; pregnant women can also be diagnosed with a variation of the disease, called gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes occurs strictly during pregnancy, usually in the second or third trimesters, and is a result of high blood sugar caused by hormones in the placenta.
Although it’s not the most dangerous diagnosis a pregnant mother can receive, it’s nothing to take lightly, says Lisa Leone, MD, ob/gyn at Bryn Mawr Hospital, who also sees patients at offices Plymouth Meeting and Rosemont.
“Newborns who are born to mothers with gestational diabetes are at risk for low blood sugar, and have a higher risk for health problems like obesity and Type 2 diabetes later in life,” she explains.
In addition to the health risks for your baby, mothers with gestational diabetes are at a higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes later in life, and have an increased risk of gestational diabetes in any future pregnancies. Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes can be upwards of nine or ten pounds, making delivery more difficult.
So what can you do to prevent gestational diabetes and its associated health risks?
“Any woman who is planning to become pregnant in the near future should understand the condition, its causes and effects, and its risk for both mother and baby,” says Dr. Leone. “Talk to your ob/gyn to make sure you’re in good health before you conceive.”
The healthier you can start off pregnancy, the better. Staying active, maintaining a healthy diet, and talking to your ob/gyn about your past medical history, particularly instances of diabetes or birth complications in your family, is the first step.
Planning for baby? Main Line Health offers obstetrics and gynecology services at all four of its acute care locations, as well as at outpatient health centers in Broomall, Collegeville, Exton and Newtown Square.