The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), or high blood sugar during pregnancy, used to be relatively rare, occurring in about 3 percent to 4 percent of pregnancies. But in recent years, the rate has doubled— now, up to 6 percent to 8 percent of moms-to-be are diagnosed with this prenatal complication. And new recommendations lowering the cutoff point for diagnosis may lead to an even more dramatic increase.
When your mom was pregnant with you, chances are she wasn’t running, pedaling a stationary bike or doing ball squats. Back then, doctors worried that exercise might harm the growing baby and discouraged pregnant women from breaking a sweat.
Gestational diabetes often crops up in the third trimester, but doctors are also troubled by the rising number of women who begin pregnancy as diabetics. The percentage who conceived with pre-existing diabetes— either type I, commonly known as “childhood diabetes,” or type II, often referred to as “adult onset diabetes”—more than doubled between 1999 and 2005, from 0.8 percent to 1.9 percent. This is likely due to high rates of obesity, which contributes to type II diabetes.
In increasing number of American women who want to get pregnant soon might want to reconsider their timing: They’re overweight. A study that looked at 53,000 pregnant women’s weight at their first prenatal visit found that the average had increased by 20 percent from 1980 to 1999. That’s bad news for them and their babies.
Weight loss can decrease your risk of gestational diabetes. If you were in your 20s, I would recommend that you try to lose weight before getting pregnant again. But since you are 35, my recommendation is to not delay conception by trying to lose weight first, as fertility decreases with age. You should consider consulting a registered dietitian about beginning a preconception nutritional program, as doing so may reduce your risk. Thirty minutes of daily exercise also should be incorporated into your routine, as research shows it can greatly reduce gestational diabetes risk.
Since you have a history of gestational diabetes, there is a strong likelihood that you'll develop it again, so you're wise to ponder your options. In the past, if diet and exercise did not bring blood-sugar levels under control, doctors prescribed insulinan effective treatment, but one that often required daily injections. Today, there's a medication called Glyburide that can be as effective as insulin. Since its taken orally, it is easier to administer than insulin injections. And because it does not cross the placenta, it poses no risk to the fetus.
Yes. Your overall health will undoubtedly benefit you and your baby, but since your history includes a first-degree relative who has diabetes, you are at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes while pregnant. Testing you in the first trimester rather than the third--the standard for women without risk factors--is also important.
Gestational diabetes simply means an elevated blood sugar during pregnancy. But the risks involved are anything but simple—they're very serious for both mom-to-be and baby. The good news is that woman can take steps to reduce the risks of this dangerous prenatal condition. The rate of gestational diabetes has almost doubled—now affecting about 4 percent of all pregnant women in the U.S, The New York Times reports.
At my 26-week OB appointment, I drank a bottle of extra-sweet soda—imagine Mountain Dew spiked with pancake syrup—and an hour later, submitted my arm for a blood test. I was being screened for gestational diabetes and, as a gym regular and healthy eater (except for those first-trimester French-toast binges), I wasn't worried.
Step 1: The Glucose Challenge
You drink a concentrated glucose beverage, then wait an hour for a blood test. If your one-hour blood-sugar level is more than 140 milligrams of glucose per deciliter of plasma (mg/dL) but less than 200 mg/dL, you'll be referred to Step 2 for a more definitive diagnosis. If it exceeds 200, you'll be diagnosed with GDM and won't need further testing.
Women who exercise regularly before conceiving are less likely to develop diabetes during pregnancy, according to a Harvard study. Brisk walking before pregnancy reduced the risk of gestational diabetes by 34 percent compared with walking at an easy pace. In contrast, women who watched at least 20 hours of television each week and did not exercise before pregnancy were twice as likely as exercisers to develop gestational diabetes. While lifelong physical activity clearly matters, previous studies show that women can also reduce their risk of diabetes by exercising during pregnancy.