Did you know there’s a connection between Pregnancy and Diabetes? And did you know there’s also a connection between Gestational Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes?
Read on to understand the connections.
Woman in her late twenties gets pregnant. At 26 weeks, she takes an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) and is diagnosed with gestational diabetes. She is challenged to keep her blood sugar within the recommended zone.
At 32 weeks gestation, she starts having trouble with high blood pressure (hypertension). Her doctor admits her into the hospital on mandatory bed rest. They give her drugs to encourage fetal lung development. She is informed she will be induced.
During the induction, it is determined the baby is not in the head down position. She is immediately scheduled for a C-section.
After delivery, the new mother’s blood sugar is higher than normal. Her baby has a poor sucking reflex which makes it difficult to nurse. For some unknown reason, the nurses want the new mother to nurse at least every hour. The medical staff informs her that stress can cause elevated blood sugars and she is not to worry.
Her doctor recommends she returns for a follow-up appointment at 3 weeks. She feels that is a little odd, but they explain it is the new recommendation and will be covered by her insurance.
At 3 weeks, she is feeling better and the baby is doing better nursing. They take a random blood sugar test and it is a little high. She explained that since she was out of the house, she treated herself to a deep dish pizza. She believes that her lunch was the reason her blood sugars were a little high because every time she ate pizza while she was pregnant, her blood sugars would go up for a long time. Her nurse smiled and said, “We’ll keep an eye on it.”
At her next follow-up appointment, her doctor required an A1c test. Her result was 6.8. She was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. She now blames her pregnancy on her diagnosis and she is convinced it will go away.
What went wrong?
Chances are she was prediabetic (aka borderline diabetic) before the pregnancy. Her fasting blood sugar tests were normal, because through the night her body could bring her blood sugar into normal range.
The A1c test is an average blood sugar test over the previous 2-3 months. Unfortunately, once you are diagnosed, you will always be flagged as at-risk for high blood sugar.
Pregnancy places a stress on your body in many ways. There are a lot of hormone shifts during pregnancy. Diabetes is caused by the hormones required to grow the placenta. The larger the placenta gets, the more you become at risk for high blood sugar.
This is the reason the oral glucose tolerance test is delayed until 26-28 weeks gestation. After delivery and you expel the placenta, your body should go back to normal.
One complication from uncontrolled blood sugar is eclampsia. This is a chemical reaction that causes uncontrolled high blood pressure. It causes heart problems and sometimes death of the baby and/or the mother.
When blood pressure (BP) starts to increase, doctors are proactive and require strict bed rest to prevent the chemical progression of pre-eclampsia into eclampsia. The doctor will induce as soon as it is safe. Many times, the baby is not in the correct position, so the doctor will do a C-section.
Typically, your blood sugar will go back to normal after delivery. But we all gain weight with pregnancy. It is very possible someone can develop insulin resistance from the weight gain. Hopefully this is a temporary condition. Sometimes it can take over a year to lose the weight. If you have developed insulin resistance, you can have prolonged sugar problems.
Once diagnosed, always a diabetic
The standard for diagnosing type two diabetes has changed. Previously, you needed two fasting blood sugar results over 125. Today, you only need one.
The medical community is trying to diagnose earlier in this disease progression to encourage lifestyle changes. Women who develop Gestational Diabetes are at high risk for developing Type 2.
Over 40% will be diagnosed within 5 years. When this disease is diagnosed early, there is a better chance of reversing it. Your diagnosis may be changed to T2 in remission, but you will always be at risk of it returning as you age.
Knowledge is Power
The internet has a lot of suggestions to reverse diabetes. Unfortunately, many of the suggestions you’ll find online are false or misleading. The American Diabetes Association encourages a balanced lifestyle. Remember, only 1% of people who attempt irrational weight control are successful in the long run. Yo-yo dieting is very hard on your body and can cause other health problems.
Slow and steady wins the race!
Many people need support to make and maintain new habits. If you need help setting realistic goals and sticking to what you really want to do, I can help you.
About the author
Julie Stelting is a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition. She is the founder of Kids at Risk for Diabetes LLC. Julie designed a program for gestational diabetes, to help women understand and cope with their diagnosis. She is passionate about preventing or delaying diabetes through holistic lifestyle changes.