During the course of your pregnancy, your gynae should send you for a screening test for diabetes, when the placenta starts producing certain hormones, some of which may impair the production and function of insulin. This is the hormone regulating blood-sugar levels, and when insulin levels are inadequate, diabetes occurs. Hence, the body is unable to deliver the sugar in the blood vessels to the cells for use.
“Generally, gestational diabetes affects about 2-5 per cent of pregnant women in Singapore,” discloses Janice Chong Phaik Heang, a dietitian at Mount Alvernia Hospital. Women with gestational diabetes generally do not display any symptoms hence the checks are very important.
Who would be most susceptible?
Pregnant mums who:
* Are over 30 years of age .
* Have a BMI of more than 25kg/m2 .
* Have a family history of diabetes .
* Have high blood pressure .
* Have a medical history of gestational diabetes .
* Have previously given birth to large babies weighing more than 4kg.
Implications on baby
* The excess sugar in the mum’s blood will be transferred to her baby, which in turn, will have to produce more insulin in order to process the sugar.
* The newborn will still produce high levels of insulin after birth, resulting in a life-threatening scarcity of blood sugar left.
* Mums have to pay close attention and take extra care of their little ones who may suffer from hypoglycaemia or experience fetal respiratory distress syndrome. These babies do unfortunately have a higher chance at developing diabetes in the future.
Implications on mum
* Affected mothers have higher chances of developing high blood pressure and urinary tract infections during the course of their pregnancy.
* As babies will be larger in size, a C-section may be necessary for the safety of these expectant mothers.
* Mothers may develop gestational diabetes during subsequent pregnancies and have a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.
Tips for treatment
A change in diet can help tremendously. Make adjustments to your meal plan and reduce your intake of carbohydrates (stick primarily to good, complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains). Have lean protein with these carbohydrates, which will help sustain your energy and better control your blood sugar levels.
You can also learn to better manage gestational diabetes at Thomson Medical Centre's Holistic Personalized (HOPE) Program for Gestational Diabetes, with the support of an experienced team of diabetes nurse educators, dietitians and medical specialists.
Work closely with your gynecologist to monitor your weight. Developing a daily light exercise routine will be beneficial. It also helps you shed a few pounds prior to offset pregnancy weight gain, helps make your labour easier as your muscles are strengthened — we know you won’t be complaining about that!
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