7 scary facts to know about gestational diabetes

Staying fit won’t just make labour easier, it’ll help you avoid dealing with horrible diseases like diabetes…

7 scary facts to know about gestational diabetes1

Getting pregnant is a joyous milestone in your life, but it also means that you’ll need to make a lot of changes to your lifestyle — one of which is your diet. While a nourishing diet can be hard to follow, it ensures that both mama and baby remain healthy throughout the pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes occurs when a pregnant woman’s pancreas isn’t able to produce enough insulin to absorb the sugar. Mums-to-be who are at risk of developing this disease don’t just need to steer clear of caffeine and alcohol, they’ll need to restrict their food, like refined carbohydrates. Here are facts you should know about this condition…

1) Singapore is home to the highest number of cases of gestational diabetes in the world A recent National University Hospital (NUH) press release notes that about 20 to 30 per cent of Singaporean mums-to-be suffer from the condition, nor is this trend slowing down.

If your doctor suspects that you may be at risk of gestational diabetes, he’ll advise you to take the Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT) to measure your body’s insulin resistance. You’ll be asked to consume a glucose drink, and your blood sugar levels will be taken two hours later. You’re diagnosed with this disease if your blood sugar levels exceed:

* 5.5mmol/L before a meal, or
* 6.6mmol/L two hours after your meal.

“Most pregnant women with gestational diabetes will need to monitor their blood sugars on two days each week — on one weekday and one weekend — and seven times on each of the two days.”

2) Asians may be at higher risk of diabetes Early findings from the NUH study — called Assessing Progression to Type 2 Diabetes (APT-2D) — suggest that Asians seem to produce lower levels of insulin in response to blood sugar spikes. So, expectant Asian women need to watch their diets closely and make better lifestyle choices. Obesity is often a precursor to chronic issues like diabetes, so include simple regular exercises like long walks after dinner.

3) You’ll feel like a human pin cushion Like other diabetic patients, mums-to-be with gestational diabetes will need to monitor their blood sugar levels. This means having to prick your finger to extract blood for testing with a compact glucometer. Notes Dr Yew Tong Wei, a consultant with NUH’s division of endocrinology, “Most pregnant women with gestational diabetes will need to monitor their blood sugars on two days every week — one weekday and one day of the weekend — seven times on each of those two days.”

You’ll need to do the tests before a meal and two hours after. Dr Yew notes that the glucose level in the blood usually peaks between one and two hours after the start of a meal. “Measuring the glucose level two hours later is practical and it generally [gives an approximate] of the peak sugar values in patients, providing a reasonable assessment of the high glucose levels after one’s meal.”

7 scary facts to know about gestational diabetes2

4) You may have to make drastic changes to your diet Sarah Lee, 29, was told by her ob-gyn that her blood sugar was higher than average during her second trimester where she took the GTT. Lee notes, “I didn’t expect that I’ll need to make such a big change to my diet! I couldn’t eat a lot of the foods I used to.” She had to replace her regular lunch fix of economy rice (菜饭) with cooked salads featuring chicken breast as these are higher in protein.

“Suffering from gestational diabetes increases your risk of developing type-2 diabetes — otherwise known as obesity related diabetes — later in life by up to seven times!”

5) Gestational diabetes can be fatal for your baby Poorly controlled gestational diabetes can lead to a host of problems for both mother and baby. In the worst case scenario, it can lead to foetal death inside the womb, notes Dr Claudia Chi, a consultant with NUH’s department of obstetrics and gynaecology.

SmartParents expert and Gleneagles Hospital consultant ob-gyn Dr Christopher Chong says gestational diabetes patients and their babies face a higher risk of:

* Miscarriage.
* Foetal abnormalities.
* High blood pressure.
* Sudden foetal death in late pregnancy.
* Birth injuries for both mother and baby as the foetus is likely to be larger in size, especially if diabetes wasn’t well controlled.

6) You are more likely to undergo a C-section Gestational diabetes caused by excessive weight gain during your pregnancy is linked to a higher chance of delivering a big baby. As this may mean that vaginal birth isn’t a viable option for some mothers, this could result in a heftier hospital bill.

7) It increases your chance of type-2 diabetes later in life Dr Chi says suffering from gestational diabetes increases your risk of developing type-2 diabetes — otherwise known as obesity-related diabetes — later in life by up to seven times! Your baby will also face the same risk of developing diabetes in the future.

Photos: iStock

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