What is Gestational Diabetes?
Unlike other forms of diabetes, gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that is only diagnosed in some women when they are pregnant. It is not a common occurrence but it is thought to exist during approximately three to eight percent of pregnancies in America. It may be growing in its incidence of diagnosis, as are all other types of diabetes.
In the same way as other forms of diabetes, it is defined by the occurrence of higher than normal levels of glucose circulating in the bloodstream, in this case, of the pregnant mother.
The glucose exists in the blood as a result of foods consumed, mainly in the form of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are chains of sugars, starches, and fiber chemically linked in a chainlike structure. After eating, they are broken down in the stomach’s digestion processes and reduced to molecules of the sugar called glucose that is passed into the bloodstream.
Glucose is a source of energy needed by the cells of the body in their essential metabolic activities. The glucose is carried to the organs and cells of the body in the circulating bloodstream and is normally delivered to the needy cells with the aid of insulin, a hormone that also exist in the blood. Insulin is essential to the process because it alone can function with the receptors on the cells to allow the entry of the glucose into the cells. It is when this linked process becomes impaired that glucose cannot leave the bloodstream and gestational diabetes occurs. The system’s impairment results from the changing hormone patterns that take place during the pregnancy. Those hormones may block the insulin or make the cells resistant to insulin. For this reason, gestational diabetes is sometimes referred to as glucose resistance diabetes or glucose intolerance. Most pregnant women are able to compensate by producing more insulin and they will be free of diabetes.
There may be no noticeable outward symptoms. The possibility of gestational diabetes is usually screened for at some time about weeks 24 to 28 of a pregnancy, when it is most likely to become evident, although it can occur earlier. Also gestational diabetes may not be screened for if the physician is sure the condition is not present. A pregnant woman may be checked sooner if she is known to be at a higher risk to develop diabetes, perhaps because of a family history of diabetes or if she is much overweight. There is a higher incidence of gestational diabetes occurring in some segments of the population, namely in women of African American or American Indian descent or in women of Hispanic American descent.
Treatment of gestational diabetes
The treatment routine and the care of diabetes is well established and doctors know well how to monitor and control the condition and it should result in a complication-free and happy pregnancy, and the end of the gestational diabetes when the new baby is born.
The gestational diabetes diet
If and when diagnosed, the treatment and management of gestational diabetes is usually by diet and weight control, and in some cases, if that is not effective, there may be a need for medication or insulin.
It is important to adopt a good dietary routine that can control and manage blood sugar levels, provide the calories needed to meet the needs of mother and developing baby, and keep the expected normal weight gain to within an appropriate range. A dietitian will usually construct a special gestational diabetes diet tailored to the mother’s food preferences and tastes. It will probably focus on eliminating many simple sweet carbohydrate foods that cause glucose levels in the blood to rise sharply, such foods as cookies, cakes, pastries, sugary desserts, soft drinks and colas.
What will be recommended is a list of options and suggestions that will include plenty of vegetables and fresh fruits, whole grain breads and cereals, lean meats, chicken without the skin, fish, low fat milk, yogurt and cheeses, and the right quantities that allow for a balanced and nutritious diet. And the best beverages and how much water to drink. The dietitian is the expert who, with the doctor, plays an important role in keeping the blood sugars under control. The objective of every diabetic.