Demystifying Pregnancy Diabetes
You go to your appointment with your healthcare professional following your pregnancy. You're at 25 weeks, so you're doing some routine testing.
A few days later, you receive a call from your professional for the results and… BAM, he tells you that you have gestational diabetes. Hello stress, what is pregnancy diabetes? I didn't go overboard with sweets though… Is it dangerous for my baby? For me? Are there any solutions?
Well, you've come to the right place to learn more!
Rest assured, pregnancy diabetes is common and easily detected. There are multiple solutions to this diagnosis! This article is used to understand all of what it means to have pregnancy diabetes, if reading about the possible impacts is stressing you (and I say possible, it does not happen in all cases!), Go see the section of possible solutions lower. 😉
What is pregnancy diabetes?
Before we talk about pregnancy diabetes, let's demystify what diabetes is.
This is a medical condition that indicates that the pancreas is not making enough insulin (a hormone that regulates the amount of sugar in the blood), or that the body is not able to use it effectively. insulin produced by the pancreas (1). It is characterized by prolonged hyperglycemia (an abnormally high level of sugar in the blood).
Pregnancy diabetes, also called gestational diabetes, is simply diabetes that was first detected in the pregnant parent during pregnancy. It may be diabetes that started before pregnancy, or during. In most cases, high blood sugar is caused by hormones produced by the placenta (2).
Often, diabetes goes away after pregnancy. In this case, it is because it was caused by the different hormones produced during it. Statistics show that between 3% and 20% of pregnant people will be affected by this condition (3).
How do I know if I have gestational diabetes?
You should know that in the majority of cases, diabetes appears at the end of the 2e or 3rd quarter (3). Health professionals can offer you a diabetes screening test between 24 and 28e weeks pregnant; this will be to measure your blood sugar following the ingestion of a sweet liquid (2).
When it comes to symptoms of gestational diabetes, in many cases pregnant people do not experience them.
However, there may be times when they feel a unusual tiredness, excessive thirst, increased urine volume and frequency, and / or headache. On the other hand, these are symptoms frequently experienced during pregnancy, so they often go unnoticed. (3). (This is not a way to diagnose yourself, please talk to your healthcare professional if you are ever in doubt!).
To learn more about the different types of pregnancy diabetes screenings, see Diabetes Quebec.
How does pregnancy diabetes affect me? On my baby?
Above all, you should know that diabetes can be controlled, either by food or by medication (obviously, health professionals recommend control by food first! We will come back to this in the section on solutions).
If the diabetes is not controlled, and therefore the blood sugar level remains high for a prolonged period, certain risks may appear. (3) :
- Too much amniotic fluid, increasing the risk of a premature labor: A large volume of amniotic fluid increases the risk of premature rupture of membranes. (4)
- Risk of a cesarean delivery or a more difficult genital delivery, especially because of the prolonged hyperglycemia which increases the risk of having a large baby at birth (more than 4 kg / 9 lbs) (3)
- Pregnancy hypertension or preeclampsia (high blood pressure and swelling). To learn more about pregnancy hypertension and preeclampsia, I invite you to visit the website of To be born and to grow.
- Higher risk of remaining diabetic after childbirth or of developing type 2 diabetes in the long term: 20 to 50% risk within 5 to 10 years after pregnancysse (3)
Prolonged hyperglycemia in the pregnant parent can also affect babies. (3) :
- Risk of blockage when the shoulders protrude during childbirth
Baby larger than normal at birth (over 4 kg or 9 lbs)
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) at birth
- Mild risks of jaundice at birth (especially if it is premature), a lack of calcium in the blood and breathing difficulties.
- Risk of being obese and having glucose intolerance in early adulthood (especially if birth weight is greater than 4 kg or 9 lbs)
What are the solutions available to me?
First, your healthcare professional can offer advice on how to adapted food and a healthy lifestyle.
You may also be referred to a dietitian or nutritionist (do not hesitate to ask your professional!). They will offer you a food plan adjusted to your preferences and conditions.
A) physiotherapist or a specialized trainer for pregnant people can also help you with a adapted physical activity plan (ex: yoga teacher / prenatal swimming, etc.)
Also, if you or your partner has gestational diabetes and you are also interested in our Our prenatal classes, our doulas will be happy to offer you content adapted to your situation!
Our naturopathic services can also help you by natural alternatives to help you control your pregnancy diabetes.
Second, if your diabetes has not or cannot be controlled with diet and physical activity, health professionals may prescribe you insulin or an oral anti-diabetic (some are compatible with pregnancy, but most doctors prefer insulin).
These will help to control your blood sugar, having the effect of reduce the risks incurred by prolonged hyperglycemia!
Don't worry, insulin has no effect on your baby directly. (On the contrary, the benefits it has on your diabetes is good for the baby!) The molecule does not cross the membrane of the placenta. (5)
On the other hand, with taking insulin, there is a greater risk of inducing childbirth (often around 38-39 weeks gestation), to prevent the baby from getting too big by the time the pregnancy comes to term (6) .
Our doulas trained to support couples during an outbreak will be able to accompany you with gentleness and wisdom, and their multiple tools to manage contractions will help you experience your childbirth in the best possible way!
Can I breastfeed if I have gestational diabetes?
The answer is Yes! Breastfeeding is recommended for all people who have given birth, diabetics or not (but it is even more recommended for diabetics!).
It comprises several benefits for the breastfeeding person: it helps control postpartum blood sugar, helps prevent type 2 diabetes and helps improve blood pressure!
For the infant, the benefits are also multiple: it helps in particular to reduce the risk of obesity and to reduce the risks of developing diabetes later in life (3) . However, it is important to know that the flow of milk can be delayed for a few days.
For more information and testimonials on breastfeeding and diabetes, I invite you to consult The Federation of Diabetics (French site).
Support at birth and postnatal at Les Premiers Moments
- Diabetes, World Health Organization (WHO)
- Pregnancy diabetes, Better Living with our child, p. 100, 127, and 164
- Pregnancy diabetes, Diabetes Quebec
- Hydramnios, oligoamnios: too much or not enough amniotic fluid; Health Passport
- Insulin to treat diabetes in pregnancy; CHU Montreal
- My pregnancy with diabetes, French Federation of Diabetics