In Australia somewhere between 12% and 15% of pregnant women are diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. Most will be managed with diet and a small number will need medication (insulin injections or oral metformin).
Whilst there are a number of risk factors that predispose the condition, such as family history or high BMI, for many women it comes as a complete shock.
After the shock comes fear. Fear of how the diabetes will affect both mum and baby.
How can Gestational Diabetes affect my baby?
Diabetes Australia are very blunt about the impact of poorly managed blood sugar levels:
If gestational diabetes is not well looked after (blood glucose levels remain high) it may result in problems such as a large baby, miscarriage and stillbirth. A large baby can create the risk of injury at delivery, caesarean delivery, forceps delivery and a need for the baby to be looked after in special care until the glucose level stabilises after delivery. Other complications may include pregnancy loss and premature delivery. If any problems occur, the hospital will care for you and your baby.Diabetes Australia Website
This doesn’t have to be the case though, and the majority of women with Gestational Diabetes go on to have a healthy pregnancy, a normal birth and a healthy baby. When women follow the recommendations around diet and lifestyle, which help keep the blood sugar levels (BSL) within the target range, there are very minimal to no impacts on to the health of your baby.
Services offered to women who have Gestational Diabetes might very from hospital to hospital. There may be any combination of Health Professionals working with you, such as an endocrinologist, dietician, diabetic educator, midwife or obstetrician. It doesn’t really matter who you get the information from, so long as you receive 3 very important pieces of information.
The three key elements to successfully managing Gestational Diabetes
Diet & Exercise
Understanding which foods to eat and which foods to avoid.
We all know that unprocessed foods, such as fruits, vegetables and protein are best for our nutrition, and this is especially the case for women with GD. Complex carbohydrates (all the white food – rice, bread, pasta, biscuits, cake, muffins, anything made with white flour!) need to be minimised or completely avoided.
Testing your Blood Sugar Level (BSL)
You will be given a kit and and shown how and when to test your blood sugar level (BSL). It is usually a small finger pricking device that gives you an instant value.
Your Health Care Providers will also show you where to record your BSL and how often you need to check in with them about your results.
Knowing your Ideal BSL range
Your ideal BSL range will be advised by your Health Care Providers.
They will be able to see the trends in your BSLs and advise you on whether you need to make any changes to your diet and exercise plan. This also is how your Health Care Providers will determine if you need medication to manage the Gestational Diabetes.
What you eat and how much exercise you do will impact the level of glucose in your blood. The more often the glucose level is outside your target range the more chance the diabetes will have an impact on your pregnancy.
Does Gestational Diabetes affect labour and birth?
A diagnosis of GD does mean that your labour will be managed differently. You are more likely to be recommended an induction of labour and you and you baby will both have some extra monitoring during labour.
To support women with GD, we have developed an online antenatal program tailored specifically for the circumstances that this diagnosis will bring. You can find out more information here.
As always, we wish you all the best!