Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes can be a shock, but it could also turn out to be a long-term boon for you and your baby.
Besides being an “older” mom, Cecilia Paetsch had no risk factors for gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM, or high blood sugar during pregnancy). “i thought it was really only a concern for obese women, and my weight wasn’t an issue,” says the 35-year-old attorney from Northbrook, Ill. “I was also pretty conscientious about what I ate, and somewhat consistent about exercise, so I figured i was in the clear.” Paetsch’s pregnancy was normal and routine—until she was diagnosed last year with GDM at week 25.
Paetsch is one of a growing number of women being diagnosed with GDM, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports now affects 2 percent to 10 percent of expectant women. in 2011, the American Diabetes Association endorsed lowering the threshold for diagnosis, but most OB-GYNs are still utilizing the old standard. If the proposed new criteria are used, the number of women diagnosed with GDM could jump to 18 percent—nearly 1 in 5, says Mark Landon, M.D., chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
GDM develops when hormones from the placenta compromise a woman’s ability to use the insulin produced by her pancreas. Though most women compensate by producing extra insulin to break down glucose (blood sugar) for energy, some can’t; their excess glucose builds up in their blood and passes through the placenta to the fetus. Recent studies indicate GDM can have long-term consequences for mothers and children and that it poses risks at lower blood-sugar levels than previously thought, says Landon, the lead author of a large 2009 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine that demonstrated clear benefits to treating even mild cases of GDM.
Are You At Risk?
You are at higher risk for gestational diabetes if you:
> Are black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American or Pacific Islander
> Are older than 25
> Have a family history of type II diabetes
> Have a personal history of prediabetes or gestational diabetes
> Have had a very large baby or a stillbirth in a previous pregnancy
> Have a prepregnancy body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher (Calculate your BMI: fitpregnancy.com/bmi). Note: Only 50 percent to 60 percent of women diagnosed with GDM are overweight, indicating that it can develop because of a genetic predisposition or other factors;
> Gain excess weight in your first trimester, especially if you start your pregnancy overweight
> Drink five or more sugar-sweetened sodas a week before conceiving
> Have gum disease
> Are a frequent snorer.