The mere thought of carrying and bringing forth life is worthwhile for every woman who is or has been on the pregnancy journey. Baby flutters, kicks, listening to the fetal heart rate, and monitoring the baby’s development during a scheduled ultrasound mask the discomfort of morning sickness, swollen feet, abdominal pain, and back pains. However, over the 40-week journey, the development of diabetes can turn the motherhood process into a more anguishing one if not well managed.
Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that only occurs during pregnancy and usually clears up after delivery. It is a result of hormones released by the placenta preventing the body from using insulin effectively. This causes glucose to build up in the body instead of absorbing it. For a type of diabetes that affects one in twenty pregnant women (Diabetes Management Resource Centre), much needs to be done in awareness creation.
Although any woman is at risk of developing the disease, risk factors that may expose one to having this form of diabetes are:
- Overweight or obesity
- A family history of diabetes
- Having previously given birth to an infant weighing more than 4 kgs
- Women older than 25 years
- Being pre-diabetic
The inability to effectively regulate blood sugars when expectant has detrimental effects on the mother and child. The general effects are placental abruption (early separation of the placenta from the uterus), preterm birth, and stillbirths. Additionally, congenital defects that develop as a result of maternal diabetes are;
- Macrosomia or high birth weight can cause a baby’s injury during delivery and expose them to being obese or diabetic
- Cardiovascular problems because of underdeveloped blood vessels and valves
- Respiratory issues for preemies from poorly developed lungs
- Cleft lip and palate malformations
- Neural tube defects due to poor development of the brain and spine
Mothers with macrosomia babies, post-partum haemorrhage, vaginal tear, and caesarean delivery leave implications on the mother. More effects are pre-eclampsia (a maternal condition characterized by high blood pressure) and the risk of developing diabetes type 2 later.
Taking into account the consequences of gestational diabetes on both the mother and the baby, there out to be preventative and management measures in place. These include:
- Eating healthy foods. Instead of snacking with junk foods, opt for healthier alternatives such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Also, minimize intake of deep-fried foods and avoid the notion of ‘eating for two’ that can result in overeating. If already diabetic, the diabetic diet will help in managing the blood sugar levels
- Regular workout. Work with your doctor on what exercises you can comfortably do such as walking for about 15 minutes, dancing, or pre-natal yoga exercises
- Regularly monitoring your blood sugar levels
- Getting tested for diabetes after pregnancy to monitor the occurrence of type 2 diabetes
- Maintaining an ideal weight before pregnancy
Early diagnosis is crucial to prevent short-term delivery risk and long-term effects of cardiovascular diseases for the mother and infant. Nonetheless, this is challenged by the high cost of the diagnostic test as most women are unable to afford it. Therefore, staying healthy by eating right and keeping fit can go a long way in preventing maternal diabetes.
It may be a bit scary more so for a first-time mum, but it does not mean that defects must occur if diabetic. Brave on and do it right not only for you but the baby as well.