11 Jun Diabetes
Diabetes is a serious long-term (chronic) medical condition that can result in severe damage to nervous and cardiovascular systems with particular trouble expected in the heart, eyes, feet, hands, and kidneys. While the most acute problems are associated with long-term loss of blood sugar control, with problems accumulating over time, pregnancy changes that equation. A baby developing in the womb is much more vulnerable to immediate damage caused by high glucose (or blood sugar) levels. This makes it imperative that a woman with diabetes gains good control of glucose levels prior to getting pregnant.
The early months of pregnancy, when a fetus begins to develop their brain, heart, kidneys, and lungs, is critical for blood sugar control. Out of control glucose levels can interfere with all of these vital organs, resulting in a miscarriage or a child with defects of the brain, heart or spine.
For a pregnant woman with diabetes controlling blood sugar levels can be even more difficult than when she is not pregnant. This is partially due to a woman’s need to maintain good nutrition for herself and her child. In addition, about 2 to 7 percent of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes, which often goes away once the child is born. For women who are overweight or have other additional risk factors, the rate of gestational diabetes is about 9 percent.
Even if you are used to having diabetes, a pregnancy will create new, critical demands on a woman’s blood sugar control regime. Women who take oral medication to help control glucose levels may have to switch to injecting insulin to improve their control. Women without a prior diagnosis are not used to glucose control practices at all and will have to work with their doctor, a nutritionist, an obstetrician and, perhaps, an endocrinologist to learn how to control blood sugar levels quickly.
Pregnant women with diabetes have a higher risk of developing preeclampsia, which is a condition marked by high blood pressure accompanied by excessive protein in the urine. This can develop in the second half of pregnancy, usually after 20 weeks. High blood pressure can damage the kidney or liver and trigger life-threatening events sometimes leaving your physician no choice but to recommend aborting the pregnancy or performing an emergency cesarean section to save both woman and child.
How to Control Diabetes
There are, essentially, three ways to control blood sugar levels. People with diabetes have to follow their specific control regiment very strictly to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. The three basic control systems are diet, exercise, and medication.
Many people believe people with diabetes cannot eat anything with sugar in it, which includes any carbohydrates. That’s not the whole picture. In truth, people with diabetes must eat a certain amount of carbohydrates. Blood sugars are necessary for life; they are what your body uses for energy.
However, controlling diabetes basically means eating only enough sugars to get you to the next meal. You don’t want too much blood sugar, so limiting intake is critical. On the other hand, you don’t want your blood sugar levels to drop too low, which is immediately dangerous. So, a person with diabetes must eat appropriate amounts of carbohydrates throughout the day.
Since blood sugar translates to energy, exercise is the second basic way to control blood sugar, because exercise (most often) lowers blood sugar levels. However, there is a secondary problem that makes both diets and exercises somewhat tricky: When your body has depleted all the immediately available sugars, but it still needs energy, it can turn to stored fat when it has to. When it does this, blood sugars rise again. This is one reason exercising too much or not eating any carbohydrates can backfire, sending sugar levels higher, instead of lower.
There are many medications available to help control blood sugar levels, but the most basic medication is insulin. Your pancreas, a gland in your neck, produces insulin, but two things can go wrong with this, leading to the diagnosis of diabetes. First, your pancreas could stop producing insulin. This is called type 1 diabetes and is usually associated with childhood-onset diabetes. Secondly, your body could develop problems utilizing the insulin your body produces. This is type 2 diabetes. In this sense, gestational diabetes, which occurs during some pregnancies, is more like type 2 diabetes. After a woman has delivered her child, in most cases, gestational diabetes will go away, as the body returns to a normal weight and a woman’s body returns to making efficient use of the insulin produced by the pancreas.