Motherhood is hard work.Diabetes is, too.
Diabetes can begin during pregnancy and is a common complication. Every year, 2-10% of pregnancies in the US are affected by gestational diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This National Diabetes Awareness Month, we give the spotlight to moms and moms-to-be wherever they are – at home, at work, in the military – and support their awareness of diabetes during pregnancy and how it increases risks of developing this chronic disease later in life for both mother and baby.
Diabetes first diagnosed during pregnancy is called gestational diabetes. It is the leading cause of high blood sugar and a common complication associated with pregnancy. While gestational diabetes often goes away after delivery, it can still have a significant impact on mother and baby immediately and later in life.
Eat healthy foods. Choose foods high in fiber and low in fat and calories.
Keep active. Moderate activity before and during pregnancy for 30 minutes everyday.
Keep a healthy weight before and during pregnancy.
If you're pregnant, or considering becoming pregnant, talk to your doctor about gestational diabetes risks, regular blood sugar checks and recommendations for a healthy eating and exercise.
Answers from the doctor
Enrico Repetto, MD, Medical Director at Roche Diabetes Care answers frequently asked questions about gestational diabetes:
What is gestational diabetes?
“Gestational diabetes occurs when pregnancy hormones and weight gain block a woman’s body's ability to use insulin properly thus causing the increase of blood glucose.”
Is gestational diabetes on the rise in the US?
“Yes, gestational diabetes is on the rise among women.1 Even among active service women in the Military Health System, rates of gestational diabetes have doubled in the last 10 years.2 In the U.S., Native Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and African-American women are also at higher risk”
What are the factors contributing to this rise?
“This could be due to women getting pregnant later, beginning pregnancy overweight and decreasing physical activity.”
How can a pregnant woman detect her risk of gestational diabetes?
“Pregnant women without known diabetes mellitus should be screened for gestational diabetes after 24 weeks.”
During pregnancy, what are the recommended glucose levels to reduce the risk of complications?
“Fasting and postprandial self-monitoring of blood glucose are recommended in pregnancy to achieve the following glucose levels targets – fasting < 95 mg/dL and 2h postprandial < 120 mg/dL.”
Why is it important to detect and treat gestational diabetes during pregnancy?
“Treatment of gestational diabetes significantly reduces the incidence of health complications such as spontaneous abortion, increase of blood pressure, excessive birthrate and pre-term birth.”
How does gestational diabetes affect the health of mom and baby after delivery and later in life?
“While gestational diabetes often goes away after delivery, more than 50% of women with gestational diabetes are at high risk of subsequently developing diabetes.3 Women with gestational diabetes should be screened 6 to 12 weeks postpartum to check if there is persistently abnormal glucose. Babies of moms with gestational diabetes are also at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.4”
For women thinking of becoming pregnant or are already pregnant, what steps can reduce their risk of developing gestational diabetes?
“Women who are already expecting can help prevent and control gestational diabetes by eating healthy foods and staying active. Pregnant women should talk to their doctors about their risks, get blood sugar checks and follow recommendations. For women thinking about becoming pregnant, starting pregnancy at a healthy weight helps, It is also a good idea to ask the doctor what a reasonable amount of weight gain during pregnancy is appropriate.”
Sources: 1. Lavery JA, Friedman AM, Keyes KM, Wright JD, Ananth CV. Gestational diabetes in the United States: temporal changes in prevalence rates between 1979 and 2010. BJOG. 2017;124(5):804-813. doi:10.1111/1471-0528.14236 2. CDC website, gestational diabetes: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/gestational.html 3. Williams Valerie F. et. al, Diabetes Mellitus and Gestational Diabetes, Active and Reserve Component Service Members and Dependents, 2008–2018; https://health.mil/News/Articles/2020/02/01/Diabetes-Mellitus-and-Gestational-Diabetes-MSMR-2020, Accessed Oct 5, 2020 4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gestational-diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20355339 5. https://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/diabetes-gestational.html