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November is National Diabetes Month, a time to increase awareness of Diabetes and its significant impact on millions of Americans. This year’s focus is on Gestational Diabetes and the lifelong risks, to both mother and child, of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, Gestational Diabetes affects as many as 9.2% of women. It is caused by a condition known as Insulin resistance. It develops during pregnancy in women without a prior history of Diabetes. It is usually diagnosed during the 24th and 28th week, using results from an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test or OGTT.

During pregnancy, hormones produced by the placenta that help the baby develop, can interfere with action of insulin leading to insulin resistance. Insulin is needed to convert sugar into energy for the body to function properly. When the body can’t make or use insulin normally, insulin and blood sugar levels rise in both the mother and developing baby increasing complication risks for both. Some of these complications include preeclampsia, C-section, larger than normal birth weight, delivery complications/injuries to baby, childhood obesity and increased likelihood of developing Type 2 Diabetes in both the mother and child.

To lower your chances of developing Gestational Diabetes, the first step is to see if you are at risk. If you have one or more of the following, the answer is YES!
1. Being overweight prior to pregnancy
2. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy
3. African American, Asian, Hispanic, or Native American
4. Diagnosed with prediabetes or have a primary relative with Type 2 Diabetes (mother, father, sister, brother)
5. History of Gestational Diabetes with prior pregnancy, given birth to a baby larger than 9 lb. or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

The next step is to become PROACTIVE during your child bearing. If you are considering becoming pregnant and are overweight, it is recommended to lose weight by make healthier food choices and increasing your physical activity prior to becoming pregnant. Taking these steps can significantly lower your risks of developing insulin resistance, Gestational Diabetes and its potential complications.

If you are pregnant and develop Gestational Diabetes, it is important to work with your health care team to develop an individualized plan to maintain blood sugar control and weight during pregnancy lowering complication risks for both you and your baby. This plan will include healthy eating, regular exercise, weight management, blood glucose monitoring and possibly medications. Attending scheduled appointments, recommended testing and communicating concerns and issues will result in a lower risk pregnancy and healthier baby.

Most times gestational Diabetes resolves after giving birth BUT the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes later in life increases. In fact, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, “half of all women who had gestational Diabetes go on to develop Type 2 Diabetes” and their children have a greater chance of being obese and developing Type 2 Diabetes.”

It is important to be tested for Diabetes no more than 12 weeks after giving birth and to inform your child’s healthcare provider that you had Gestational Diabetes, so they can monitor their growth patterns more closely.

If test results show elevated blood sugar but not Diabetes, ACT TODAY following the Diabetes Prevention Program proven lifestyle changes to lower your risks of developing Type 2 Diabetes by more than half. Lose 5-7% body weight by lower saturated fats, no trans fats, exercise 5 days/week for 30” (can break down to 10” increments 3x/day and get same benefit) and discuss with your healthcare provider if you could benefit from starting a medication called metformin. Making healthy lifestyle choices impacts the entire family and their risks of developing obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.

To learn more about Gestational Diabetes:
https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/gestational
http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/gestational/