Diabetes is a serious health concern, especially when left untreated or undiagnosed. Today is Diabetes Alert Day. It is designed to teach the public about the seriousness of diabetes. If you develop diabetes during pregnancy, it can cause problems for your baby.
About 9 out of 100 people in the U.S. have diabetes – a condition in which your body has too much sugar (called glucose) in the blood. Glucose is your body’s main source of fuel for energy. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. If your body does not produce insulin or cannot use it efficiently, then over time, high blood sugar can lead to serious problems with your heart, eyes, kidneys, and nerve cells. You can develop diabetes at any time in your life, including during pregnancy.
There are three different types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes happens most often in children and young adults but it can develop at any age. With type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin.
- Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. In this case, your body does not make insulin or can’t use it normally. You are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes if you are older, overweight, have a family history of diabetes, or do not exercise.
- Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy. Seven out of every 100 pregnant women (7 percent) develop gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after you give birth. However, if you have it in one pregnancy, you’re more likely to have it in your next pregnancy. You’re also more likely to develop diabetes later in life.
Your health care provider tests for gestational diabetes at 24-28 weeks with a glucose screening test. During this test, your drink a liquid that contains glucose. An hour after you drink the solution, your blood will be drawn to check your glucose levels. If your blood glucose is too high, you will need to come back for a glucose tolerance test.
Most of the time, gestational diabetes can be controlled. But if left untreated, gestational diabetes can result in complications such as premature birth. For this reason, if you do have gestational diabetes, it is important to follow your provider’s recommendations.
Gestational diabetes usually goes away after you have your baby; but if you have it, you’re more likely to develop diabetes later in life. To help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes after pregnancy:
- Breastfeed. Breastfeeding can help you lose weight after pregnancy. Being overweight makes you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
- Get tested for diabetes 6 to 12 weeks after your baby is born. If the test is normal, get tested again every 3 years. If the test shows you have prediabetes, get tested once a year. Prediabetes means your blood sugar levels are slightly higher than they should be but not high enough to have diabetes.
- Get to and stay at a healthy weight and stay active.
If you have any concerns about your family health history, or you think you may be at risk for developing gestational diabetes or diabetes, speak with your health care provider.
Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.