Caregiver’s Guide To Gestational Diabetes

There are a lot of myths and misinformation about why diabetes occurs during pregnancy. This caregiver’s guide to gestational diabetes will help you understand and care for your loved one in the best way possible.

Diabetes is a severe condition that affects many people in America. About 23 million adults in America are diagnosed with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It is a very difficult disease to manage as you are not sure when sugar levels will spike up or down suddenly. 

Gestational diabetes is possibly the most well-known medical issue for pregnant women. Gestational diabetes occurs exclusively in pregnant women. 

Caregiver's Guide To Gestational Diabetes

Managing gestational diabetes can be a challenge for caregivers, especially because there are a lot of other hormonal, physical and emotional changes happening in the woman’s body at the same time during pregnancy.

There is a lot of information out there and sometimes it can be very confusing. This guide intends to provide all the relevant knowledge about gestational diabetes in a single place.

You might like to read: Caregivers’ Guide To Diabetes Nutrition

Prevalence of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is also commonly referred to as GDM in medical terms. It is similar to normal diabetes in many ways. This type of diabetes happens when the body stops producing enough insulin or is unable to produce enough insulin to convert the glucose present in our blood to energy. About 2% to 10% of all pregnancies are affected by gestational diabetes.

Pregnant women require more energy than usual because they carry another life in them. Gestational diabetes occurs because, after pregnancy, a woman’s body changes very rapidly. 

The most common changes are either hormonal changes or fluctuation in the woman’s weight. A sudden increase in weight can cause the cells in your body to not be able to utilize the insulin produced effectively. 

You are vulnerable to suffering from gestational diabetes if you have had a history of high blood pressure and high sugar levels earlier. 

Similarly, patients in the overweight category or those who have a history of diabetes in their family are at a similar risk. You must be on the lookout for the symptoms of gestational diabetes, as many mothers cannot recognize the symptoms of this condition during the initial stages. 

The initial or the starting symptoms of this condition include: 

  • Weakness, i.e., the woman will feel tired throughout the day
  • Frequent urination
  • Dry mouth. 

This disease can go undetected or unnoticed during the initial stages without a proper check-up or screening. 

Caregiver's Guide To Gestational Diabetes

Is Gestational Diabetes Dangerous For The Baby? 

Yes, the risk posed by gestational diabetes on the unborn child can vary depending on the child’s condition. In some cases, this condition can put the newborn child at very high risk, whereas in other cases, it will not affect the newborn child. 

During diabetes, your blood sugar level will be higher than usual. This can cause the child to have similar levels of high blood sugar. Having high blood sugar at such a young age can cause significant disruption in the child’s growth. These disruptions might also lead to some severe complications such as:

Macrosomia

This is a condition in which the baby’s body is larger than a normally born child. Having a larger body than usual can disrupt normal delivery through the vagina. 

Because of this condition, many children suffer from a dislocated shoulder during the delivery process. To reduce this complication, you might have to opt for cesarean delivery. Macrosomia is a condition that affects 3% to 15% of all pregnancies worldwide. 

Hypoglycemia

This is a type of condition in which the blood sugar in your body hits an extremely low point. Low blood sugar is not healthy for your body as it will cause your body to not be able to break down the glucose to form energy. 

To bring the blood sugar level of the newborn child back to normal levels, you might have to breastfeed them immediately. Breast milk contains a lot of vitamins and nutrients that are helpful for the nourishment of a newborn child. 

If for some reason, you are unable to breastfeed the child, then they will need to get the required amount of glucose artificially through medical drips and support. Hypoglycemia is a condition that affects about 0.4% of newborn children. 

Jaundice

Jaundice is very common in newborn children. It is a condition in which the skin color turns slightly yellow. You may also experience the white parts inside your eyes turning into a shade of yellow as well. 

There are several cures for jaundice available. If treated on time and correctly, it is not a severe condition to suffer from. 50% to 80% of newborn babies suffer from jaundice within the first 2 to 4 days, most doctors recommend no treatment for neonatal jaundice unless it turns severe.

Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS)

As the name suggests, this condition is related to breathing problems. The baby will have trouble breathing due to a lack of oxygen. If this condition persists, then doctors might have to go for supplying artificial oxygen to the kids. 

Low calcium or magnesium in the blood

Lack of calcium or magnesium can lead to developing a condition in the baby that causes them to suffer from spasms. Spasms in the hands and the feet cause automatic twitching or cramping of the muscles. You can treat this condition by feeding the baby enough calcium and magnesium supplements.

Caregiver's Guide To Gestational Diabetes

How Do You Prevent Gestational Diabetes? 

You can prevent gestational diabetes if you take enough care of yourself during pregnancy. People who are overweight are vulnerable to this condition, and if you want to avoid suffering from this condition, you can try and shed some of your extra weight. 

The excess weight on the body doesn’t allow the cells to utilize the insulin produced in the body properly. A sufficient amount of exercise can lower the risk of diabetes in pregnant women. Aerobic exercises are the best form of exercise for weight loss. 

Pregnant women can perform running, light swimming, or even dancing three to four times a week. Along with moderate exercise, a healthy diet also goes a long way to improve your overall health and reduce the risk of diabetes. 

You might like to read: Simple Steps to Lower Your Risk of Diabetes

Can Gestational Diabetes Have Other Repercussions On The Baby?

Typically, gestational diabetes does not lead to any deformities or congenital disabilities in babies. The reason why this condition does not lead to any physical deformities is that these deformities take place during the first trimester that is usually between the 1st and 8th week of pregnancy. 

On the other hand, gestational diabetes starts developing late into pregnancy, around the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy. But still, it is better to avoid this condition as it may impact the child. 

Gestational diabetes is difficult to detect early on as its patients mostly have a stable blood sugar level during the first trimester. The onset of this disease is pretty late for the original because our body takes time to build up insulin resistance. Ultimately, the main reason for insulin resistance is the body’s lack of production of these chemicals. 

As a caregiver, you need to assure the patient that just because they have diabetes, that doesn’t mean their newborn baby will suffer from this condition. But suffering from gestational diabetes does put your child at risk of suffering from type 2 diabetes later on in life. 

Babies born with Macrosomia are at constant risk of suffering from obesity when they grow up. 

Caregiver's Guide To Gestational Diabetes

Can Gestational Diabetes Add Some Complications In Labor Or While The Delivery? 

Pregnant women with gestational diabetes don’t have many complications reaching their delivery date safely. In some cases, gestational diabetes can cause the delivery style of your baby to change depending on their condition. 

As a caregiver, you must focus on informing the patient about some things or changes that can occur while delivery, such as:-

Increase in blood sugar and imbalance of insulin

Maintaining the blood sugar level is vital during pregnancy that ensures your good health and your newborn baby’s good health. If you don’t require insulin during pregnancy, there is a very high chance that you will not need it during labor and delivery. 

There can be two possible cases: first where you will not need to take insulin supplements externally because your body can cope with the changes. Second, if you do feel the need to take insulin shots during pregnancy, then this is a negative sign that your body cannot cope with the changes in your body. 

If you require an insulin shot during pregnancy, you will also need it during labor and delivery. 

Initial delivery phase

Gestational diabetes may have some impact on you during the initial delivery phase. Pregnant women can feel a sudden increase in their blood pressure just before the delivery. This sudden rise in blood pressure is commonly known as preeclampsia. Caregivers should remember that the best way to cure this condition instantly is by delivering the baby. 

However, in many cases, delivering the baby might not be the ideal option as other health-related risks are at play. At this stage, you will have to keep a close watch over the patient and make sure that their vitals are not dropping and are stable. Doctors can perform tests on the patients to find out whether early delivery is needed or whether it is a safe option or not. 

During cesarean delivery

This is an alternate form of delivery in which the baby is delivered through surgery instead of the natural process. Cesarean delivery is also commonly called a C-section delivery. 

Just because you have gestational diabetes doesn’t mean that you will go through a cesarean delivery. Your caregivers and doctors will have to decide upon monitoring the baby’s health during the labor period. If the baby’s health is critical or deteriorating, doctors opt for cesarean delivery. Otherwise, they’ll go for normal delivery. 

Caregiver's Guide To Gestational Diabetes

Will Diabetes Persist Even After Pregnancy? 

In the majority of the cases, after giving birth gradually, gestational diabetes also goes away. This is because, after delivery, the body can use the insulin it is producing effectively. 

Gestational diabetes occurs in the body because of the placenta. Placenta produces chemicals in the body that give rise to insulin resistance. Once after delivery, the placenta is removed from the body, and you can go back to your everyday life. 

Caregivers must remember that if a patient has gestational diabetes during pregnancy, they are at a high risk of developing type-2 diabetes during the later stages. Type-2 diabetes is similar to gestational diabetes as in both these conditions. 

The body is not able to use the insulin it is producing correctly. If you want to prevent this condition, caregivers must encourage their patients to maintain a healthy weight and bring positive changes to their diet. 

You might like to read: The Ultimate Caregivers Guide To Diabetes

Will I Get Diabetes After Pregnancy If I Have Gestational Diabetes?

Diabetes can be a lifelong problem. However gestational diabetes itself may or may not lead to actual diabetes later on. If you have certain other risk factors also, then the risk of getting postpartum diabetes increases. These factors are:

  • Early Gestational Diabetes: Typically this disease doesn’t rear its head till the 28th week or after. If you get gestational diabetes before the 24th week of pregnancy, it might be a cause for concern
  • High Blood Sugar throughout pregnancy: If you have had high blood sugar throughout pregnancy, it might mean that the chances of developing diabetes post pregnancy are higher.
  • Age: Age has a direct relation with diabetes. About 25% of the people above 60 in America have diabetes. There is an onset of diabetes after 60 as the intestines start to grow old. Due to the person’s growing age, the cells in our body cannot utilize insulin properly.
  • Weight: People that are obese or overweight are also at constant risk of suffering from diabetes. If you are obese, there is an 80% chance of suffering from diabetes. People that have a body mass index of greater than 24 are vulnerable to suffering from diabetes. 
  • Race or ethnicity: Some races and ethnicities are also more vulnerable to diabetes mainly because of heredity, living conditions, etc. Latin Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans, and people from the Pacific Islands are more vulnerable to gestational diabetes. 
  • Family history: Your family’s history plays a significant role in deciding your vulnerability to gestational diabetes or normal diabetes. You can get your family history and assess previous type-1 and type-2 diabetes cases. 
  • Previous experiences: If you have had a pregnancy with gestational diabetes, you could be vulnerable to suffering from this condition again. The significant advantage would be that you’ll be more prepared and knowledgeable to deal with gestational diabetes this time. 
  • Early symptoms: This phase is also called prediabetes. The early symptoms include having higher blood glucose than the standard level. Usually, the glucose levels are not yet high enough to be called diabetes in such cases, but you are at risk of suffering from it. If you are diagnosed with the early signs, this puts you at risk of suffering from diabetes later. Once you are diagnosed with prediabetes, you must conduct regular glucose check-ups.
Caregiver's Guide To Gestational Diabetes

How To Treat Or Control Gestational Diabetes

Many women are not aware of this condition and cannot identify the early symptoms. As caregivers, your responsibility is to be aware of such signs and treat them correctly once you have identified them.

One of the essential points of a healthy pregnancy is regular visitation or consultation with healthcare professionals. So caregivers must schedule regular appointments with the doctors.

A pregnant woman’s body changes very quickly, due to which regular appointments will be sufficient for the doctors to keep track of her progress. Caregivers must perform the following actions to treat gestational diabetes effectively:-

The caregiver must first know the blood sugar of the patient beforehand. This will allow you to prepare a strategy to control the spikes or drops in the blood sugar levels. You will know how much glucose is present in your body. The blood sugar level in your body changes throughout the day as you consume different foods. 

Caregivers can keep the glucose levels in check by checking the sugar multiple times a day and maintaining a proper record. Having adequate knowledge about the different foods that will help you manage your glucose will help you out a lot. When you get closer and closer to the delivery date, the resistance of insulin in the body starts building up. Insulin resistance is built up gradually as the number of chemicals in the body increases. 

If your body lacks insulin, you can go for insulin shots that will increase the insulin in the body. 

The caregiver can teach the patient how to test your glucose levels. You can also give detailed information about glucose testing. The following steps are:-

  • Firstly wash your hands thoroughly before going for a blood sugar test. You must use soap to clean your hands. 
  • The next step is to pinch or poke your finger with a small needle. This tiny needle is also called a lancet. The lancet is an essential part of the blood sugar testing kit as it will help you collect the sample of blood. After pinching yourself, you will be able to squeeze out a drop of blood. 
  • After squeezing out the blood now, you have to place this drop of blood on the target spot of the testing device called the glucose meter. You can also place this drop of blood on a piece of paper and then keep it on the glucose meter. Glucose meters have different styles. As a caregiver, you can explain the working of your glucose meter to the patients. 
  • After waiting a few minutes, the glucose meter will display a number. This number will indicate your blood sugar level. 

Some health and hygiene precautions should also be taken care of, such as throwing away the lancet after using it once. Do not use the same lancet again and again. Caregivers must keep a sufficient supply of blood sugar testing kits at home. You must also remember to carry these kits with you if you are going out somewhere, as you may never know when you need to check your sugar levels. 

Caregiver's Guide To Gestational Diabetes

When To Test Yourself? 

You should follow the guidance of your doctors, but a typical testing schedule is testing the sugar levels when you wake up. This is an important time to test yourself as you have not eaten something at this point, and you have an empty stomach.

The next time you test yourself is one or two hours after breakfast, one or two hours after lunch, and again after sometime after eating dinner. If the time between you sleeping and eating dinner is large, you can test yourself again just before sleeping. 

Your glucose levels should not exceed 95 after waking up; that is when you have an empty stomach. Similarly, it should not be higher than 140 after the first hour of eating or 120 after two hours.

Gestational Diabetes Ideal Diet

The diet plays a significant role in controlling and managing gestational diabetes. Caregivers should remember that it is not that eating healthy food once or twice will keep you fit. You will have to be persistent and consistent in your diet. Patients who want to see good results focus on their diet and regular moderate exercise. 

An ideal diet for gestational diabetes has a lot of fruits, vegetables, and other items as well. You should feed the patients with less lean proteins and more amounts of healthy fats. Eliminating the food items with higher amounts of sugar is a progressive step in achieving the ideal diet. 

One thing that will help your patients to keep their blood sugar in control is to eat in smaller portions. You can increase the number of times you consume food but reduce the quantity you consume.

Eating a smaller portion will not result in a much higher spike in blood sugar levels. On the other hand, eating in smaller portions will keep your glucose in check. You must make sure that the patient is not skipping any meals as skipping meals will eat larger quantities in the next meal. 

A diet rich in carbohydrates is perfect for dealing with diabetes. Carbohydrates are the primary source of raw and direct energy from our food because our body breaks down the carbohydrates in the food to produce sufficient glucose. 

Caregiver's Guide To Gestational Diabetes

Best Workout For Gestational Diabetic Patients

Workout is essential to maintain an ideal weight throughout your pregnancy. The workout performed by a gestational diabetic patient should not be too intense as, after all, they are pregnant. The exercise should be moderately active and performed regularly for best results. Some of the best exercises for gestational diabetes patients are:-

  • Walking: Walking at a brisk pace for about 15-20 minutes daily is an effective way of getting that aerobic exercise. This is one of the exercises that doesn’t require you to have any gym membership. You can practice this exercise for free of cost. 
  • Cycling: As a gestational diabetic patient, you can do cycling during the early stages of your pregnancy. But after a certain stage, you will find it challenging to do cycling with a baby in your stomach. Cycling is more intense than walking. It will also burn off more calories and fat than walking. 
  • Yoga is another form of exercise that will help you achieve peace of mind. Women can go through a lot of mood swings and changes in pregnancy. Yoga will help them relax their soul and mind. On the other hand, yoga also allows us to maintain a healthy physical shape without gaining extra weight. 
  • Swimming: Swimming is a joint-friendly exercise option where you have to use your whole body instead of a specific joint. Swimming results in the workout of the entire body. If you have any joint ailments or can’t stress your joints, then swimming is the ideal option. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the normal blood sugar level for a patient with gestational diabetes? 

A blood sugar level around the level of 190 is considered normal for gestational diabetic patients. For a person who does not have diabetes, a blood sugar level of 140 is considered normal. You can get to know your blood sugar levels with the help of a testing kit. 

What are the initial symptoms of gestational diabetes? 

The initial symptoms of gestational diabetes are difficult to identify at first. But if you are on the lookout for the following symptoms, you can identify this condition at an early stage. If you are experiencing an increase in urination, this increase is because your body is unable to process the glucose properly, due to which it is in an excess quantity in your body. A blurry vision is also a factor that occurs early in gestational diabetes patients. 

Can I have a healthy pregnancy with gestational diabetes? 

Yes, you can absolutely have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby despite having gestational diabetes. Most pregnant women get to know about this condition during the latter half of the pregnancy, around the 24-28th week. You can manage or reduce the impact of this condition on the baby by having a healthy diet and by maintaining an ideal weight ratio. 

Can you get gestational diabetes from eating too much sugar? 

No, gestational diabetes is not linked with sugar consumption. Type-1 and type-2 diabetes are linked with sugar consumption. Gestational diabetes is a condition that affects pregnant women because their pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin that their body requires.

Caregiver's Guide To Gestational Diabetes

Wrap Up

Gestational diabetes is a health condition that affects many women’s pregnancy. This condition is usually not very harmful, and it is gradually cured once the baby is delivered. 

There is not enough awareness and knowledge about this condition as a caregiver in pregnant women. With this extensive guide, you will be able to help out so many patients struggling with this condition. 

We hope this information was useful for you in understanding and caring for your pregnant loved one. If you have any doubts or questions about gestational diabetes, please feel free to write us a comment and we will answer you as quickly as possible.

If you found the guide to be useful, please do share it with others who may be in need of similar information.