I’ve got gestational diabetes on the brain because my glucose tolerance test is happening this Friday! I feel sure that I’m going to have it (What can I say? Total hypochondriac over here…). Ugh.
We get babies in the NICU every now and then who require help because mama had gestational diabetes. What I get a LOT of is frustrated moms who just want to take their babies home and who don’t understand what’s going on.
So I thought, why not blog about it?
If you have gestational diabetes, you’ve probably read up on it. Or your OB has given you the basics and told you what to do. Did you understand any of it? If not, you’re in the right place!
How is gestational diabetes different from “regular” diabetes?
You probably know the term diabetes and relate it to all sorts of things, like obesity, sugar, carbs, fast food, etc, etc. But gestational diabetes is different in a big way. You don’t get it simply because you’re a terrible eater (although that increases the risk).
You get gestational diabetes BECAUSE of your pregnancy! Ugh. Totally unfair.
What causes gestational diabetes?
The truth is, hormones are what causes gestational diabetes! What this means is that you can be a very healthy person and STILL end up with this complication! In nursing school, my classmate who was very athletic and slender, and ate very well still ended up with gestational diabetes.
There are “special” hormones in pregnancy that lead your body to do all sorts of weird things. You might just be unlucky enough to be sensitive enough to these hormones. Sorry!
So what’s the big deal?
Gestational diabetes works just like “regular” diabetes. You eat, your sugar goes up, and you don’t have enough insulin to devour all the sugar.
This causes all sorts of side effects, like thicker blood volume, numbness in your hands and feet (because the blood is too thick to get into those tiny vessels!), thirst (because your body wants the blood to be thinner), and frequent urination (so you can get rid of some excess sugar).
But most of the time, pregnant women don’t have any of these symptoms. So what’s the big deal?
The big deal is…
When you have too much sugar in your system, it travels across the placenta to your baby. Your baby’s body responds by making its OWN insulin.
& that’s the problem.
Insulin actually works as a growth hormone, so the more your baby produces, the bigger they get. That affects you the most, mama! If your gestational diabetes is allowed to go unchecked, you could end up with a baby weighing in the double digits!
But that’s not the biggest (pun intended) problem with insulin.
The reason that these babies get admitted to the NICU is that they spend sooo much time producing ALLLLL the insulin (which “eats” the sugar) that when they are born and their supply of sugar is literally cut off (via cutting the umbilical cord), their body is STILL making insulin and now there is nothing there for it to eat!
So BOOM. Baby’s blood sugar plummets, which can be very dangerous for their brain.
& it can take days to weeks for the body to readjust.
The remedy to this is to give the baby a form of sugar through an IV and wean it slowly until they can handle being without.
What does it mean for me?
Most of the time, gestational diabetes goes away after pregnancy. But sometimes, it can lead to “regular” diabetes. If it goes away, you still have a very good chance of having it again with a subsequent pregnancy.
Having gestational diabetes means you’ll need to be careful about what you eat and how much activity you do. You will probably also have to measure your blood sugar several times per day.
All that being said, if you have gestational diabetes, try your hardest to control it. Controlled gestational diabetes has much better outcomes for you and your baby. I am definitely not a master on how to control it though, so I’ll end here.
Tell us about your experience with gestational diabetes in the comments!