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Gestational Diabetes: What Newly Pregnant Moms Need to Know

pregnant lady on couch

Photo by Alekon pictures on Unsplash

If you’re newly pregnant right now, you’ll be asked to take a glucose loading test between 25 and 28 weeks of your pregnancy.

It’s one of those rites of pregnancy but most mothers-to-be just don’t look forward to, explain Twin Doctors, Dr. Idries Abdur-Rahman MD and Jamil Abdur-Rahman, authors of “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Pregnancy: But Were Too Afraid or Embarrassed to Ask”

Eighteen years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child, I took the test and found out I had developed Gestational Diabetes. I actually contributed to my diagnosis. Early in my pregnancy,  I discovered that one way to cope with all day morning sickness and nausea was to sip 7-11 Slurpees all day. If you’re familiar with that slushy ice beverage, you know it is loaded with sugar, ergo high amount of carbs and higher blood sugar. After the discovery, I got treated and recovered.

It is very important to not skip the test.

You need to know if you have it because untreated gestational diabetes can cause premature birth and stillbirth, the March of Dimes warns. 

How does the test go

The Twin Doctors write in Everything You Ever Wanted to Know:

The loading part of the glucose loading test involves drinking a super sugary drink called glucola. Glucola comes in multiple flavors with orange, lemon and fruit punch being the most common. All of the glucola drinks contain 50 grams of glucose. When you have diabetes, your body doesn’t metabolize (break down) sugar the way that it normally would, this results in higher than normal blood sugar levels. One hour after you drink glucola, your blood will be drawn, if your blood glucose level is more than 140, it is considered abnormal. Because the GLT is a screening test, an abnormal GLT means that you have a higher change of having diabetes but it is not diagnostic.

If your GLT is abnormal, you have to do another test called the 3-hour Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT). This is the definitive way to diagnose gestational diabetes. This test involves drinking twice as much of the glucola drink (100 grams) and having your blood drawn four times. Unlike the initial GLT, the 3-hour GTT requires you to fast for at least 8 hours and have your blood drawn before you drink the glucola, as well as 1-hour, 2-hours, and 3-hours after you finish the drink. An abnormal 3-hour GTT means that you have gestational diabetes

The Effects Linger

If you end up with an abnormal test and are determined to have GB, the good news is that it goes away when you deliver the baby. Your body will no longer sense a foreign object, the baby, and will stop fighting itself.  The effects are long term, however. The mother and baby become high risk of developing diabetes or other forms of autoimmune diseased sometime later in life. The Mayo Clinic recommends moms and their babies to be aware of this risk, and possibly test for it periodically.

It’s a First World thing

Diabetes is becoming more and more common in the western world and patients who have diabetes are considered higher risk during pregnancy.  According to the Twin Docs, in their book, Diabetic mothers have a higher risk of:

  • Preterm labor and delivery.
  • Developing high blood pressure during pregnancy.
  • Having abnormally large babies.
  • Sustaining pelvic floor damage during delivery
  • Delivering by C/Section.
  • Developing diabetes later in life.

None of these outcomes is wanted. However, you can  increase your odds of having a favorable test before it comes time to take the test.

Here are some tips:

Get good sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with higher incidences of heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and cancer so make sure to end your day earlier and get a good night’s rest, or if you can, take naps during the day.

Lessen your stress level.

Stress is known to raise blood sugar, and if you already have type 2 diabetes you may find that your blood sugar is higher when you are under stress. Changing what you eat, exercising more, or adjusting medication can help to keep it under control.

One study of obese black women without diabetes found that those who produced more stress-related epinephrine when asked to recall stressful life events had higher fasting glucose and bigger blood sugar spikes than those with lower epinephrine, suggesting it might raise your risk for getting diabetes too.

Eat Better

In my case, when I had the condition, the high sugar content of the Slurpees I drank daily to stave off nausea contributed to my blood sugar spike. Those drinks had a lot of carbohydrates. So, in short, you should reduce your carb intake.

In fact, when I developed GD and saw a nutritionist, I was told to not ingest more than 25 carb grams per meal. When I did not, I stabilized my blood sugar levels and stopped gaining an insane amount of weight. In fact, I only gained about a few more pounds after that. Before, I was gaining too much weight and too fast.

Health information website Healthline recommends that you:

  1. Eat protein with every meal.
  2. Include daily fruits and vegetables in your diet.
  3. Limit or avoid processed foods.
  4. Pay attention to portion sizes to avoid overeating.

It is very possible to reverse a dangerous course and end up getting a positive result when your time comes to take the test if you stick with these tips.

 

 

Want more information? Get the Twin Doctors’ book:

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