Gestational Diabetes: The Most Common Complication in Pregnancy

Updated: Mar 30

By Dr. Shreya Batra, ND

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that is diagnosed to females who are pregnant, but did not have diabetes before pregnancy. It is the most common complication of pregnancy, affecting 18% of pregnant women.

Generally, in pregnancy, the cells in the body become more insulin resistant, increasing glucose for the baby; however, the problem occurs when your body is too resistant to the insulin or you don’t produce enough insulin – both causing increased glucose in the blood. Other physiologic changes in a female’s body during pregnancy also makes it difficult to maintain normal blood sugar level. For example, the placenta secretes hormones which interferes with the action of insulin, giving rise to insulin resistance.

For some women, these changes are adaptable, and no concerns arise, however, for others, it is very important to monitor diet, lifestyle, and sometimes get support from supplementation and/or medication.

Risk Factors:

  1. Family history of gestational diabetes, pre-diabetes, or Type 2 Diabetes

  2. Overweight at conception

  3. Age 25 years or older

  4. Non-Caucasian

  5. Previously large baby (>8lb. 13oz), unexplained stillbirth or malformed infant

Diagnosis:

  1. A fasting plasma glucose level of 5.6 mmol/litre or above or

  2. A 2‑hour plasma glucose level of 7.8 mmol/litre or above.

Why is it important to maintain blood sugar levels during pregnancy:

  1. A high blood sugar level may result in: birth defects, large babies, birth injuries

  2. The baby may suffer with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels), and/or jaundice

  3. May increase the chances of a cesarean section

  4. May result in pre-eclampsia (pregnancy induced increased blood pressure – posing a risk to mother and baby)

  5. May pre-dispose the baby to future complications of blood sugar dysregulation

Recommendations for women with gestational diabetes:

Exercise:

  1. Mild-to-moderate exercise each day

  2. A walk for 10 minutes after each meal

Nutrition recommendations:

  1. Focus on a low-glycemic diet

  2. DASH diet

  3. Plant-based proteins

  4. 3 meals/day that are rich in fiber, healthy fat and protein

  5. Don’t skip meals, and don’t have too many meals

  6. Complex carbohydrates are okay, and actually healthy.

Supplementation to consider for prevention and/or treatment:

  1. Magnesium

  2. Vitamin E

  3. CoQ10

  4. Omega 3 Fatty acids

  5. Vitamin D

  6. Myo-inositol

Keep in mind, there are some fantastic solutions, pharmaceutically, which can benefit as well.

Please always discuss these concerns with your health care team. There are ways to prevent and manage gestational diabetes and it is important to individualize the treatments to ensure that they are the best for you.

What’s Next?

If you or a loved one have these concerns or if you are currently pregnant – let’s make sure you have a safe and healthy pregnancy. Book a complimentary 15-minute meet and greet and let’s chat to see how we can create a treatment plan beneficial for you.

References:

  1. PMID: 20510967

  2. Diabetes in pregnancy: management from preconception to the postnatal period (NG3) – A guideline by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

  3. Real food for Gestational Diabetes.

  4. Diabetes in Pregnancy: J Obstet Gynaecol Can 2016;38(7):667-679

  5. PMID: 24859729

  6. PMID: 24526261

  7. PMID: 29402818

  8. PMID: 29934478

  9. PMID: 29325728

  10. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/newsroom/resources/spotlight/082114-pregnancy-GDM

  11. PMID: 28405345

  12. PMID: 30025522

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