We all have a why, and our Clinical Director Dr. Michelle Owen’s why is directly tied to diabetes – she lost her grandmother to the fight.
“In our community, that matriarch is such an important role, and observing my grandmother’s interactions with the healthcare system was a huge reason [why she became a doctor],” Dr. Owens shared during an IG Live focused on Gestational Diabetes Awareness. “She’s why I do this work.”
Now, as an OB-GYN and Clinical Director at Mae, Dr. Owens helps educate and treat patients on preventative measures and proper care, should they develop gestational diabetes.
What Is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is diabetes that develops or is diagnosed during pregnancy.
Dr. Owens explained, “As we are growing a child inside of us, our bodies change in ways necessary to make more nutrients available to the baby. One of the nutrients we need to share is sugar, or glucose. There is a natural process in pregnancy that makes it possible for us to create more of something to share with our growing baby. Gestational diabetes happens when the process of making that nutrient, glucose, happens so well that we produce an excess amount, above and beyond what would be considered normal to support the pregnancy.”
Gestational Diabetes Screenings
According to Dr. Owens, unless you are considered high-risk for gestational diabetes, providers will perform your initial screening between 24-28 weeks of gestation.
The “sugar test” will take place in your provider’s office. You will be asked to drink a very sweet drink and then wait for a period of time. They will test how your body processed that drink and you will either “pass” the screening or be asked to take a second, diagnostic test to determine the best treatment for you and your baby for the rest of your pregnancy and in postpartum.
If you’re considered high risk for gestational diabetes, you may be tested in your first trimester.
The two highest risk factors for Black pregnant women are advanced maternal age (over 35) and obesity (a high BMI or higher body weight compared to your height.) Also, if you have a lot of people in your family with diabetes or who had gestational diabetes when pregnant before, you may be at an increased risk as well.
Implications Of Gestational Diabetes on Pregnancy
Good news – according to Dr. Owens, most people diagnosed with gestational diabetes will experience it as a pregnancy-related phenomenon. It will often resolve between 6-12 weeks postpartum.
Most of the time, but not always. It is very important that in the 6-12 weeks postpartum you continue to check your glucose levels to make sure they return to normal.
Implications of Gestational Diabetes On Baby
If you have a history or are at higher risk, good glucose control early in pregnancy is an important part of giving your baby a healthy start!
Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes tend to be bigger and can present issues during delivery. They can also sometimes develop issues with lower glucose or are delivered with certain birth defects.
But take comfort – with proper management and treatment, and normal blood sugar, risks for birth defects due to diabetes will be greatly reduced or eliminated altogether.
Gestational Diabetes is Manageable – Stay Vigilant
As Dr. Owens shared, most gestational diabetes will resolve during postpartum. But for 10-15% of us, it won’t go away.
One long-term implication could be a future diabetes diagnosis. And if you have it once, you are more likely to experience it again.
Know Your Risk
- Roughly 1/2 of women will develop type 1 or 2 diabetes at some point in their lifetimes, usually within 5-10 years of a gestational diabetes diagnosis
- Roughly 2/3 of women will be diagnosed in their next pregnancy or pregnancy after they’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes
- Use the time in between pregnancies to make sure you are resting and recovering
- Focus on eating a healthy, balanced diet
- Make movement and mobility a priority – it helps your body tolerate glucose
- Reduce your BMI to decrease your risk
“Diet and exercise are the staples that people have said will address every medical problem that we know of and that’s the same for diabetes,” shared Dr. Owens. “With vigilance, you can get it under control and have good outcomes.”
Final Thoughts From Dr. Owens
“Making the right choices is important, knowing where sugars hide in foods (carbs and starches like pasta, potatoes, and bread are sneaky and have a lot of hidden sugars!), and making movement a part of your daily routine are little ways to make a big impact.”
It’s not easy and it’s not always fun. Your treatment may require needles and most people don’t like giving themselves shots. You have to know your numbers and check your glucose. Management takes time, effort, and work. But it is worth it!
“Approach it with a sense of grace. Don’t feel bad if you are not where you need to be, just work on doing the best you can,” Dr. Owens advises.
For more information on gestational diabetes, visit the CDC.
Watch the whole conversation @maehealthinc and find more educational resources to support your physical and mental pregnancy health at Mae. Track your pregnancy, connect with community, and find support.