Gestational diabetes is a common problem for pregnant women in Australia. Generally, it can be managed through a combination of diet, exercise and daily testing of blood sugar levels. Some women may need to use insulin to control their blood sugar levels as well. For most women, gestational diabetes is resolved once the baby is born.
If you developed gestational diabetes during your most recent pregnancy, you were no doubt happy that your child's birth brought relief from the trials of managing your blood sugar levels. However, it's also important to understand the post-birth health care that you should continue with as a result of gestational diabetes.
Women who develop gestational diabetes have a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and, more rarely, type 1 diabetes. As a result, you should ensure that your post-birth health care plan includes screening and preventative measures to monitor and reduce the risks. Here are the two main things that will assist you.
1. Glucose tolerance tests
In Australia, all pregnant women are offered a glucose tolerance test during their pregnancy. This test detects the development of gestational diabetes by assessing how well the pancreas secretes insulin and converts sugar in the blood into energy. You'll need to repeat this screening test regularly in the years following the development of gestational diabetes.
Your family doctor can organise these tests for you and provide you with referrals to a pathologist. The first test is generally done at around six weeks postpartum and then every two years after that. Your family doctor will contact you if there are any results which show prediabetes or diabetes markers.
2. A healthy lifestyle
Type 2 diabetes is an increasingly common disease in the wider community and is frequently caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices. Smoking, over-consumption of alcohol, a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle are all the biggest contributors to the development of diabetes as well as many other health problems.
If you've had gestational diabetes, then your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is already increased. If you couple this with an unhealthy lifestyle, then you're even more likely to develop the disease in the future.
If you're struggling with this aspect of your long-term health care, then your family doctor can help you with it. As well as offering you great advice, they can also help you with smoking cessation and alcohol dependency programs. They can also refer you to a qualified nutritionist and help you to access government provided exercise programs and classes.