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The Truth About Gestational Diabetes - Sugar Ain’t Always Sweet, Darlin

So you’ve had a lifelong love affair with sugar. It pairs well with your tea, enrobes your Gulab Jamuns in a sheath of decadent syrup and sits like a wintery carpet atop your favourite chocolate cake. And now that you’re growing a new little miracle inside you, it makes for even more wistful indulgence. Right? Wrong.

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While confections and mithai have traditionally been the hallmark of new beginnings, celebrations, and pregnancy binges (it’s not just you), sugar doesn’t herald all things sweet; especially during pregnancy. In fact, it’s something to watch out for, courtesy a phenomenon known as Gestational Diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes, or Gestational Diabetes Mellitus, affects about 15% of pregnant women in urban India and is triggered by stress, hereditary factors and what’s on your plate. It can also be caused by the hormones released by the placenta, leading to a rise in sugar level in pregnancy. Of course, there are very few factors that you can really influence during your pregnancy, but adopting a healthy diet and exercise regime can go a long way in controlling the condition and ensuring that your baby gets the right nutrients while still in your womb.

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Gestational Diabetes is the smaller, feebler cousin of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Like conventional forms of diabetes, Gestational Diabetes is caused by insulin resistance and hampers glucose absorption by the fat, muscle and cells in the body. But what does that really mean? Let’s break it down a little more.

When you eat, your food gets broken down into glucose. This glucose enters the cells of your body with the help of a hormone secreted by the pancreas, known as insulin. Sometimes when you’re pregnant though, the insulin produced by the pancreas isn’t enough to absorb the glucose into the body. The result?

Excess blood sugar levels in pregnancy; and zero energy conversion. The good news is that Gestational Diabetes treatment can restore your sugar levels back to normal, and keep your baby safe and healthy. Diabetes most often recedes after the birth of your baby, but does increase the probability of your developing type 2 diabetes later on in life.

There are some demographic segments amongst women that are more susceptible to Gestational Diabetes during pregnancy. For instance, overweight women and those who have been diagnosed with PCOD, are more likely to develop it. Similarly, women with glucose intolerance or those who have a family history of diabetes are more inclined to contract it. There is also evidence to suggest that women who are 25 years or older have a higher likelihood of developing the condition.

Diagnosing Gestational Diabetes is a fairly straightforward procedure. Your doctor will likely ask you to get sugar tests done at different times, like after fasting and after a few hours of consuming a sugary snack or beverage. Your doctor will check to see how your body fares after the consumption of sugar. If the result shows that your blood sugar is higher than the expected value, Gestational Diabetes is diagnosed. Sometimes, the test may not give any indication of diabetes, but your doctor may ask you to come back for follow-up tests in the event that the condition arises in the weeks that follow.

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Priyanki Shah, a resident of Bangalore, was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes during both her pregnancies. The Bangalorean vividly recalls her days with the condition, and how she overcame them. “I lost my dad when I was pregnant the first time. Because of my emotional condition, my sugar intake spiralled, and my blood sugar spiked to 300mg/dL. It was astronomically high, and it prompted Gestational Diabetes. When I was diagnosed, I saw a specialist, who put me on insulin three times a day. As my pregnancy progressed, my insulin intake had to be increased, but other than that, I’d consider my first pregnancy fairly normal.” Priyanki insists that the best way to tackle the condition is to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

During her second pregnancy, she controlled her blood sugar with a well-balanced diet and zero insulin. She even delivered her second child naturally, despite scepticism surrounding natural births by diabetic women. “It’s all in the mind,” she smiles. Like Priyanki, If you have the slightest inkling that you may have developed Gestational Diabetes, it’s a good idea to visit your obstetrician, pronto. Your doctor will ease you into a treatment method and suggest lifestyle and dietary enhancements that will help you and your baby arrest the symptoms of Gestational Diabetes. As for the mithai? Save it for when your little one arrives. You’ll discover it’s worth the wait.

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