How to prevent gestational diabetes

The sound of her baby’s heartbeat is the best sound Jessica Connington has heard all day. At this stage in the pregnancy, the next best thing for lots of women is indulging in comfort foods.

“It’s the fun part — I’m pregnant, I’m eating for two, give me the chocolate cake and the ice cream,” said Connington.

She laughs about it, but Connington knows it’s not the right choice. She was recently diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

“It has made me a lot more self-conscious of what I’m actually eating and what I’m drinking, which is probably better for me in the long run,” said Connington.

“In a nutshell, gestational diabetes is inability to control glucose or sugar levels during pregnancy and that certainly can have detrimental effects on baby,” said Dr. Angela Jones, an OB/GYN at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

One of those effects is delivering a very large baby, says Jones. At 35 weeks, Connington’s baby girl is already estimated to weigh about 7 pounds.

“Diabetes, sugar control, so when you have poor glucose control, baby is metabolizing all of this extra sugar from mom’s blood stream and that results in a large baby,” said Jones.

The CDC indicates every year 2 to 10 percent of pregnancies nationwide are affected by gestational diabetes, although the condition usually goes away after the baby is born. About 50 percent of women with gestational diabetes will go on to develop Type 2 diabetes. Jones says some of the risk factors include age, obesity, race and family history. She insists the best way to prevent gestational diabetes is to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including eating well and exercising.

Women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes after initially undergoing a one-hour glucose tolerance test. They’re given a sugary drink, and an hour after they drink that lab technicians test their blood for their sugar level. If that number comes back high the doctor orders another test to confirm the diagnosis.

“And then we have you meet with a diabetic educator, and they go over how to measure your sugars because we’re going to look at a couple different values on a daily basis,” Jones said.

Connington now goes for a non-stress test weekly. She also monitors her blood sugar level four times a day — when she wakes up, and two hours after breakfast, lunch and dinner. She keeps a food diary and meets with a nutritionist weekly to monitor her diet, which is now comprised mostly of yogurt, fresh vegetables, nuts, salads and meats.

“It’s not as scary as I expected,” she said. “It’s pretty much like going to the gym and just sticking to a normal, healthy diet.”

It’s all worth it, she says, for a happy, healthy baby.

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