Gestational diabetes is a condition where a pregnant woman develops high blood sugar levels during pregnancy, even if they have not previously been diagnosed with diabetes. Typically, this condition is detected weeks 24 to 28 of your pregnancy and affects how your cells use glucose. Gestational diabetes also increases the risk of pre-eclampsia, a condition with high blood pressure leading to kidney or liver damage. A diagnosis of gestational diabetes can have practical implications as it can mean an expectant mother is carrying a large baby, and this may interfere with plans to deliver vaginally and lead to additional complications to mother and child. Many women with gestational diabetes can be asymptomatic, with only signs of increased thirst and frequent urination – both which are common during pregnancy. For this reason this condition can be more difficult to detect without the completion of an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT).
The good news is that most women’s blood sugar levels can return to normal after delivery. Self-care postpartum becomes increasingly important as you can be at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Why Pregnant Women Get Gestational Diabetes
It isn’t clear why some women get gestational diabetes, but there are several risk factors that can make you more prone to developing it.
Your hormone levels are important to keep your blood sugars in check. Insulin is a hormone produced in your pancreas that normally regulates the body’s ability to metabolize fats, carbohydrates and protein, encouraging the uptake of our body’s glucose into our cells for use. Changes in hormone levels can make it harder for the body to process its blood sugars as it should, in an otherwise healthy individual.
Gestational Diabetes Risk Factors
Some factors put you at greater risk of developing gestational diabetes while pregnant. Your healthcare team comprised of Obstetricians, Gynecologists, Midwives, Endocrinologist, Family Doctor, Dietician and Naturopathic Doctor can be resources to help you address your various risk factors. These risks can include the following:
- Gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- Having a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) before pregnancy
- Medical history of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Delivering a baby weighing more than 9 lbs
- Pregnancy with twins
- Maternal age greater than 25 years old
- Family history of gestational diabetes
- Are of an ethnicity more prone to diabetes (African American, Hispanic, Native American or Asian).
Prevention and Management of Gestational Diabetes
There are healthy steps you can take to prevent the onset of gestational diabetes. It is never too early to start working on modifiable dietary and lifestyle recommendations that are within your ability to help you, help yourself.
In preparation for carrying a healthy baby to term, let your Naturopathic Doctor help you attain a healthy BMI! Ways this can be achieved are by analyzing your dietary patterns, and helping you find nutrient-dense foods that considers your specific eating patterns. Sometimes food cravings can be a result of a diet deficient in other key nutrients – your ND can help you understand what that may be, particularly as our own daily patterns are not always easy to self-analyze.
Individualized Nutritional Supplementation and Botanical Medicines
If medicinal food prescriptions are not enough, let us guide you in selecting the best nutritional supplementation given your unique medical history.
Community Resources – Because We All Might Need Something Different!
Find out what community resources are available to assist you! Every person has unique needs and can benefit from healthcare providers with differing expertise, skill sets and tools to advocate for your best care!
For instance, your ND might recommend you work closely with an exercise therapist to reduce excess weight before and during pregnancy, especially if you have any of the above-mentioned risk factors.
If pain is an obstacle to exercise, acupuncture administered by your ND may be appropriate to alleviate muscular discomfort as a non-pharmacological option so you can feel comfortable to complete the recommended exercises you need to maintain a healthy pregnancy weight.
Comprehensive (and Attainable!) Treatment Plans
Perhaps you are someone that has had blood work completed with your medical team and now you need support implementing strategies to help you achieve your target blood work references. This is where Naturopathy shines – your Naturopathic Doctor (ND) can walk you through how to achieve your goals with an understanding and appreciation of how both Western and Eastern medical frameworks can be advantageous to you, and in this, help you create realistic and sustainable treatment plans that takes into account the obstacles identified.
Take Home Message
A ND can help you with prevent and manage a diagnosis of gestational diabetes by offering you:
- Non-pharmacological treatment strategies – ie. acupuncture.
- Optimizing sleep, which is a known contributor to gestational diabetes.
- Sustainable meal-preparation ideas that are low-glycemic index and nutritious for the entire family.
- Help designing a home exercise program so you may use major muscle groups and re-sensitize your body to insulin. This can be accomplished even for those who do not find the idea of going to a gym appealing.
Start Planning Your Healthy Pregnancy Today!
If you are planning on getting pregnant or are already pregnant, Dr. Ancheta Goguen, ND can help you stay healthy and active to reduce the chances of developing gestational diabetes. We offer virtual and in-office Naturopathic Medicine consultations focused on supporting you pre-conception, during pregnancy, post-partum and beyond. Contact our office today to book your initial consultation appointment!