Gestational diabetes is also called gestational diabetes mellitus or GDM. It is a form of diabetes that may develop during pregnancy, usually in the second or third trimester. Diabetes can cause your blood sugar levels to be too high. This can cause damage to the mother and her unborn baby. Blood sugar levels go back to normal for most women after they give birth.
GDM can be treated and controlled most of the time. The goal is to keep blood sugar levels as close to normal, as safely as possible. At St. Joseph’s Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, women with gestational diabetes are followed closely throughout the pregnancy and taught how to manage their condition.
Post pregnancy, families are encouraged to take part in a new program now available called Families Preventing Diabetes. The program is among the first of its kind in Canada aimed at reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes for women who have experienced gestational diabetes. The program offers awareness and education for women post pregnancy. All those treated at St. Joseph’s for gestational diabetes are invited to return after delivering their infants to learn strategies that can reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 60 per cent.
About five per cent of pregnant women develop diabetes during pregnancy and are subsequently seven times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes within five to 15 years. It’s important for women to understand the risks but also know that prevention is possible.
Participants in Families Preventing Diabetes learn lifestyle practices known to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, such as:
- Exclusive breast feeding for at least the first month after giving birth
- If overweight, weight loss of five to seven per cent of pre-pregnancy weight
- 150 minutes of physical activity a week
- A diet with lots of vegetables, particularly dark leafy greens, and low in refined sugars, higher in fibre, and low in saturated and trans fats
These strategies will also help women avoid gestational diabetes in subsequent pregnancies.