Gestational Diabetes, Part I – Jessica Zadeh, MS, CHC, HNC
"When we consume carbohydrates, they’re broken down into sugar molecules which travel throughout the bloodstream, ideally going on to fuel our muscles and brain. However, if we’re not producing enough insulin or if baby is taking too much, these molecules build up in the bloodstream causing blood sugar levels to rise & increase inflammation throughout the body."
According to the American College of Cardiology, the rate of Gestational Diabetes in the US is increasing significantly; from 47.6 per 1,000 live births in 2011 to 63.5 per 1,000 live births in 2019.* Given this rapid increase, it’s important for those expecting, as well as those trying to conceive, to be armed with the data and knowledge around this subject in an effort to try and prevent and/or mitigate the symptoms of a Gestational Diabetes diagnosis.
Defining Gestational Diabetes
Most simply put, a Gestational Diabetes (GD) diagnosis occurs when a pregnant patient has a higher than normal blood sugar level, one that is considered high enough to put both you and your baby at risk for developing complications both during birth, postpartum and into your baby’s childhood and even adulthood as well.
Why Does this Occur?
Pregnancy naturally induces an insulin resistant state within your body because of the need to transfer a great amount of nutrients from mom’s body to baby via the placenta. This occurs because hormones leaving the placenta can effectively block the action of mom’s own insulin meaning that mom’s blood sugar stays a bit higher in order for more insulin being sent to baby for growth.Insulin, What it is & Why it Can Cause Issues
Insulin produced by the pancreas regulates glucose levels within the blood, without it, or without enough of it, the body struggles to regulate and transport glucose from the bloodstream into the body’s cells, causing excess glucose in the blood. When we consume carbohydrates, they’re broken down into sugar molecules which travel throughout the bloodstream, ideally going on to fuel our muscles and brain. However, if we’re not producing enough insulin or if baby is taking too much, these molecules build up in the bloodstream causing blood sugar levels to rise and increase inflammation throughout the body.
In pregnancy, it is not uncommon for the cells produced by the pancreas to become worn out and cease to produce enough insulin to support glucose being released into the bloodstream making it harder for them to exit, resulting in elevated blood sugar and sometimes Gestational Diabete.
Exposure to high blood sugar during pregnancy may also prompt baby to make too much of its’ own insulin which may cause baby to be born in a state of Hyperinsulinism which can cause baby’s blood sugar to drop dramatically soon after birth causing hypoglycemia. Additional risks associated with GD are; increased birth weight, prolonged labor and more complicated birth, increased risk of cesarean, increased chance of baby developing obesity, blood sugar issues and/or Diabetes as a child and adult as well as increased risk of GD in your next pregnancy.
Who is at Risk?
The following are pre-existing conditions/risk factors for developing Gestational Diabetes;
- Familial history of Diabetes
- Being at a greater weight than is healthy for your body type
- Having GD in a previous pregnancy
- Experiencing high blood sugar pre-pregnancy
- PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) diagnosis
- Pre-pregnancy history of heart disease and/or high blood pressure
- Pre-pregnancy diagnosis of pre-diabetes and/or diagnosis of Diabetes
- Deficiency in certain nutrients and/or vitamins
- There is also new evidence to suggest that those with an altered gut microbiome are at higher risk for developing GD
Stay tuned for Part II covering different testing methodologies for GD as well as ways to manage and even eliminate GD.
*National Trends in Gestational Diabetes: The Importance of Data Disaggregation
Jessica Zadeh is a Certified Nutritionist specializing in Prenatal & Women’s Nutrition working in private practice. Jessica works with prenatal clients throughout the US providing guidance and support to promote healthy weight gain in the expectant mother as well as adequate growth of the fetus, tailoring dietary advice & meal plans to help mothers to be deal with common symptoms of pregnancy like constipation, nausea, reflux, and nutrient deficiencies in a holistic & healthful way.
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