The ultimate goal of every expecting mom is to make it through her pregnancy with a healthy baby. But when you receive a gestational diabetes diagnosis, you may be wondering how this will affect your ability to stay healthy during all three trimesters.
There are four main types of diabetes. Gestational diabetes shows up during pregnancy and typically goes away after birth. It is characterized by high blood sugar levels, which can be brought on by weight gain during pregnancy. But weight gain is not always a factor. Genetic history also plays a big part.
If left untreated, gestational diabetes can have adverse effects on your health, such as high blood pressure and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. Gestational diabetes symptoms may include increased thirst and urination.
But how does gestational diabetes affect your baby? Below are some of the possible effects:
Excessive Birth Weight
Babies get all of their nutrients from their mothers while they’re in the womb. Which means that if the mom’s blood has an excess amount of sugar, the baby is consuming it— leading to excess weight gain for the baby. Fetal macrosomia is the term used to describe babies who weigh more than 8 pounds and 13 ounces at birth, whereas a normal baby weight is considered to be around 7.5 pounds.
While it may seem like having a heavier baby is only a problem for smaller moms, all of that extra weight can actually cause problems during delivery and after.
The baby may sustain injuries while coming through the birth canal and can even get stuck, causing injury to the shoulder and neck. Special tools may be needed to assist in getting the baby out, or a cesarean delivery may be needed in order to deliver the baby safely. After childbirth, a baby with fetal macrosomia may experience a greater risk of developing childhood obesity or metabolic syndrome.
Women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes are more likely to have a preterm birth— that is a birth that occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy. Sometimes a preterm birth might be recommended by your doctor if the baby is too large, as a way to avoid complications further down the line.
Babies who are born before their due date can potentially have some health issues. Depending on how early they were born, they may have underdeveloped organs that lead to heart issues, trouble breathing, trouble controlling their temperature, and digestive problems. While some of these issues go away over time, there are others that will stay with your baby throughout their lifetime.
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Low Blood Sugar
When a mom’s blood sugar levels are consistently at high levels, then the baby’s body has to work overtime to produce enough insulin to combat this. After the baby is born, their body is used to producing so much insulin that they actually start to suffer from having too low blood sugar, also known as neonatal hypoglycemia.
Common side effects of neonatal hypoglycemia include irritability, shakiness, low body temperature, stopped breathing or fast breathing, and no interest in feeding. In severe cases, it can even lead to your infant having seizures. This condition can usually be treated by increasing your baby’s feedings and providing them with fast-acting glucose, and will go away over time.
It’s not uncommon for babies who are born early to have trouble with their breathing, including respiratory distress syndrome or RDS. However, babies who are born to mothers with gestational diabetes can also have issues in this department.
If your baby is overproducing insulin due to high blood sugar levels, they may not have enough surfactant in their lungs, which is a substance that makes breathing possible. Your baby may require assistance with their breathing until they are strong enough to start breathing on their own.
Gestational diabetes can also cause a condition called jaundice, which is characterized by yellow skin. Babies born with jaundice also tend to be weaker and have trouble during feedings. Jaundice will usually resolve itself after a few weeks, but if severe, may require light therapy.
Higher Risk of Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes
While most of the effects of gestational diabetes on your child tend to go away with time, there are some long-term effects that can follow them through their life. As your baby grows into a child, they will have an increased risk of becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes later in life due to them having to regulate high blood sugar levels in the womb.
Preventing Gestational Diabetes
The best way of avoiding gestational diabetes effects on your baby is to prevent gestational diabetes in the first place. Luckily, there are a few lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce your risk of developing this disease.
One of the things recommended is a gestational diabetes meal plan. That includes eating a well-balanced diet that contains green vegetables, low glycemic fruits, whole grains instead of refined grains, and healthy oils like olive oil. Diets that are high in fiber and low in simple carbohydrates will help regulate your blood sugar levels and prevent the spikes that could lead to gestational diabetes. Additionally, living an active lifestyle can also help to keep your blood sugar in check.
Be sure to consult with your doctor before you make any extreme changes to your diet or exercise levels during your pregnancy. They will be the best resource to guide you in the right direction if you’re worried about your risks for developing gestational diabetes. And remember that women with a genetic history of diabetes may not be able to prevent gestational diabetes from occurring.
Even if you do find yourself diagnosed with gestational diabetes, there are steps you can take to prevent negative effects for both you and your baby. Work with your doctor to create a plan that will help you control your gestational diabetes and ensure a safer delivery. Take care of yourself and do everything you can to have a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby. While there are risks to giving birth with gestational diabetes, women have successful births all the time with this condition with a little extra care and by following their healthcare provider’s instructions.
Angel Oliver is a freelance copywriter who works on a multitude of health-related publications. When not writing, she enjoys watching the latest Netflix documentaries and traveling the country with her husband and two children.
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