pregnancy

Understanding the Risks Associated with Gestational Diabetes

Pregnant Mother Belly

If you are nearing the second half of your pregnancy, you may have heard your OB or midwife mention the infamous glucose test. You’ve probably heard tales of the syrupy orange drink that you have to consume before your blood is drawn and even more intimidating, the dreaded ‘three hour test’ required if you don’t pass the initial screening. But what is gestational diabetes exactly? And how does it affect your baby? Is there any way to prevent gestational diabetes? These are all questions that you may be wondering with your Glucose Challenge Screening approaching. Here are the answers to some of your questions! 

What is Gestational Diabetes?

To best understand gestational diabetes, it is helpful to understand how pregnancy impacts the body’s ability to process glucose (or sugar). In a healthy human body, the pancreas produces the hormone insulin which aids in moving glucose from your blood to the body’s cells where it is then used as energy. 

During pregnancy however, the placenta actually produces high levels of hormones that interfere with the process of insulin turning the glucose to energy, creating higher than normal blood sugar levels. As you progress in your pregnancy and your baby grows, your body produces more and more of these insulin blocking hormones. When your blood sugar rises to a level that is dangerous to mom and baby, this is considered gestational diabetes. 

What Are the Risks Associated with Gestational Diabetes?

If left untreated, gestational diabetes poses serious risks for both mom and baby. Health risks for your baby include:

  • Preterm labor or birth and respiratory distress syndrome
  • Macrosomia: This is when your baby is born too large (over 9 pounds) and is more likely to experience complications or injuries in the birth canal. This often results in the necessity of a C-section.
  • Hypoglycemia: Your baby may be born with low blood sugar due to the overproduction of insulin which can result in seizures.
  • Increased risk for obesity and Type 2 Diabetes later in life

Health risks for mom include:

  • High blood pressure or preeclampsia
  • Future diabetes  

Treatment for Gestational Diabetes

The good news is that gestational diabetes is a highly manageable condition that can be treated with a few lifestyle changes and some extra attention from your doctor. You can expect the following steps to be a part of your treatment plan if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes: 

  • A healthy diet: Although you should always strive to eat a balanced diet while pregnant, it is extremely important to your health and the health of your baby if you have gestational diabetes. A diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fiber and low in fat and calories will help you keep your blood sugar levels down.
  • Exercise: It is recommended that pregnant women get 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, most days per week. If you aren’t able to do thirty minutes, try breaking it up into smaller increments throughout your day. 
  • Medication: Fortunately, only 10-20 percent of women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes require insulin medication.
  • Daily blood sugar monitoring through at-home testing
  • Close monitoring of your baby’s growth and development. GD may necessitate more frequent visits to your care provider during the last three months of your pregnancy.
  • You may be referred to an endocrinologist or dietitian.
  • Your blood will be checked immediately following delivery and then again at six weeks postpartum. Fortunately, in most cases your blood sugar levels will return to normal following the birth of your baby. 

What are the Risk Factors for Gestational Diabetes?

There are some preexisting factors that may make you a more likely candidate for gestational diabetes. These factors include:

  • Personal or family history with high blood sugar or Type 2 Diabetes
  • Previous pregnancy with gestational diabetes
  • Previous baby born over 9 pounds
  • Previous unexplained stillbirth
  • Pregnancy over the age of 25
  • Having a BMI of 30 or higher at the start of your pregnancy
  • Non-Caucasian race: It is not fully understood why, but women who are black, Hispanic, American Indian and Asian have a higher incidence of gestational diabetes than women who are white.  

Prevention

Although the cause of gestational diabetes is not always known, there are some things you can do to lessen the likelihood of its onset. These include:

  • Seeking healthcare prior to trying to get pregnant to assess for risk level and to discuss your plans for a healthy conception and pregnancy
  • Eating a well-balanced, healthy diet
  • Engaging in regular, moderate exercise during pregnancy
  • Losing excess weight prior to becoming pregnant 
  • Staying current on routine recommended screenings throughout pregnancy. Typically, your care provider will recommend you take your Glucose Challenge Screening between weeks 24-28 of pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes is a serious condition during pregnancy that requires medical attention and healthy lifestyle changes to protect the health of you and your baby. Fortunately, however, by following the guidance of your doctor or midwife and taking the extra precautions to keep your blood sugar levels low, your chances of experiencing any complications can be greatly reduced. Because there are typically no symptoms of gestational diabetes, consistent prenatal care is necessary for its detection. If you are concerned about gestational diabetes or have questions about how to have a healthy pregnancy, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife. Your health and the health of your baby are our top priority.

Prenatal Depression: Warning Signs and When to Seek Help

Photo by Martinan/iStock / Getty Images

You’ve likely heard a good deal about postpartum depression from your care providers and possibly friends or family members with children. But prenatal depression, also known as antepartum depression, is a topic that is rarely discussed. Statistics suggests that some 14-23 percent of women will experience some depression during the course of their pregnancy varying in degree from mild to severe. 

Unfortunately, not all of these women will seek help however. One reason prenatal depression is often overlooked is because we can be quick to blame hormonal imbalances for the way we are feeling when pregnant. While it is true that fluctuations in the body’s hormones can affect the way we are feeling, if depressed mood or other concerning symptoms become severe or persistent, it is important to seek help.

Signs of Antepartum Depression:

Seek support from your health care provider if any of the following symptoms persist for more than two weeks or begin to affect your daily functioning:

  • Pervasive sadness or depressed mood
  • Noticeable changes in appetite (this can also be common during a normal pregnancy)
  • Loss of interest in activities you typically enjoy
  • Anxiety
  • Persistent feelings of guilt, worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Thoughts of self-harm, death or suicide
  • Excessive sleep or insomnia
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Feeling withdrawn or irritable around others
  • Feelings of restlessness and agitation
  • Loss of self-confidence

Triggers and Risk Factor:

You may be more likely to struggle with depression during pregnancy if you have experienced any of the following life events:

  • Complications during pregnancy
  • Episodes of abuse or trauma
  • A family or personal history with depression
  • Infertility struggles
  • Previous pregnancy losses
  • Relationship problems
  • Death of a close friend or family member
  • Financial stressors
  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Chronic illness

Support and Treatment:

If you are struggling with prenatal depression, the good news is that there are plenty of options for treatment and ways to get the support that you need. Start by contacting your care provider as soon as you have any concerns about the way you are feeling. Your OB or midwife may suggest that you see a mental health care provider that can be a part of your prenatal team in order to best support you during your pregnancy. Treatment for depression during pregnancy may involve a number of therapeutic and natural options such as:

  • Support groups
  • Personal psychotherapy
  • Medication: Although many medications are not compatible with pregnancy as they do cross the placental barrier, there are some antidepressants that are considered to be safe when the benefit to the mother and baby outweighs the risk. If your depression is moderate to severe and is not responsive to other forms of treatment and approaches, your healthcare provider may suggest trying a low dose of an antidepressant medication. Be sure to educate yourself about all the risks and benefits associated with the medication before starting it and share any concerns you have with your care provider. Your doctor should be able to help you choose a medication that offers the most benefit to you and the smallest risk to your baby.
  • Light therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Omega 3 fatty acids: A daily fish oil supplement may decrease symptoms of depression. Be sure to choose a supplement that is free of mercury which is not safe during pregnancy.
  • A healthy diet: Taking measures such as limiting the intake of sugar, processed carbohydrates, caffeine and artificial additives has been show to positively impact mental and physical health.
  • Vitamins, herbs and flower remedies: Discuss this option with your doctor, midwife or nutritionist to ensure that you choose safe options for pregnancy. Some vitamins, herbs and flowers have been shown to be beneficial for mood and serotonin levels.
  • Exercise: A regular exercise routine helps naturally increase your serotonin levels and reduce your cortisol levels which will improve the way you feel.
  • Rest: Not getting adequate sleep, particularly when you are pregnant, can negatively impact your mood. Try to establish a regular sleep routine to ensure you are getting the rest you need. If prenatal depression is left untreated, there are a number of serious risks to both mother and baby. 

Depression can lead to problems such as drinking, smoking, poor nutrition and self-harm. In addition to the danger these factors pose to the mother, substance use and poor nutrition during pregnancy can lead to prematurity, low birth weight and serious developmental problems for your baby. Furthermore, babies who are born to mothers suffering from depression may be more likely to be less attentive, less active and more agitated than babies born to non-depressed mothers. 

Reaching out for help is the most important step to take if you are concerned that you may be experiencing prenatal depression. Often women report feeling guilty or distraught that they are having these feelings during a time when they are expected to be happy and joyful. Do not let this deter you from asking for the help you need. If you are not comfortable reaching out to your care provider, speak to your partner or a trusted friend that can help you seek the support you need. At Health Foundations, we want to ensure that you are physically and mentally supported throughout your pregnancy. Contact us with any questions about prenatal depression or for a free consultation with a midwife and tour of our Birth Center. The wellbeing of you and your baby are our first priority.

5 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Getting Pregnant

If you are a healthy, fertile couple in your 20s, your odds of getting pregnant are looking rather rosy. If you wait a decade longer or have medical issues that may impact your reproductive system, things may get a little more complex. Still, unless you have been diagnosed with infertility, most women conceive within the first year of trying.

Here are 5 ways to increase your chances of getting pregnant:

1. Eat a Healthy Diet

There are two reasons you should consider focusing on your diet when you are trying to conceive. First, it is important that you are at a healthy weight. Being over or under weight can cause fertility issues. Experts recommend a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9 for your best chances of conceiving. Also, a diet made up of varied fresh, organic produce with lean meat and full-fat dairy may help you conceive by providing your body with all the nutrients it needs for your reproductive system to function normally.

2. Limit Caffeine

You may have to limit caffeine during pregnancy, depending on how much you are drinking, so start a healthy habit now. If you are having two cups of medium-strength coffee a day, you do not need to worry. However, if you are having the equivalent of five cups of coffee daily (or 500 milligrams of caffeine), it may be affecting your fertility. Remember that caffeine content can vary greatly by brand and brew, so be careful about getting too close to your limit. One cup of brewed Starbuck's coffee can have as much as 300 milligrams, so two cups would put you over the daily limit.

3. Have Sex During Your Fertile Window

You can only get pregnant when you are ovulating, so make sure you are having sex in the days leading up to and including ovulation day. Experts do not recommend having sex too often (it can reduce sperm quality and quantity) so try for every two to three days. If you do not want to worry about tracking ovulation, just have sex every two to three days during your cycle.

4. Be Smart About Lubrication

Many lubricants on the market are just plain bad for conception. Some contain spermicides that are meant to kill sperm. Others contain ingredients that may unintentionally kill sperm. Even saliva can be dangerous to sperm. To be safe, use a lube that was designed for trying to conceive or use a vegetable oil.

5. Limit Alcohol Consumption

Having a drink or two while you are trying to conceive is not a bad thing. It may reduce your inhibitions and loosen things up a bit – especially if you have been feeling stressed. Just try not to overdo it. And if you find that you are binge drinking often, get help. It may be impacting your fertility, and if you are addicted, it can certainly cause problems for your baby.

Author: Dr Zeenobiyah McGowan Ph.D., an expert on women's health and helping couples conceive naturally. Dr McGowan is a mother of one beautiful girl. She is editor-in-chief for Ovulationcalendar.com, also founded Impact Humanity, a charity which helps under privileged children get the basic necessities like food and education in Kenya.  http://www.ovulationcalendar.com/