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Chelsea at Crunch Gym

Forty Weeks of Fitness!

Chelsea, our pregnancy fitness expert, is a certified personal trainer at Crunch gym in San Francisco, California. She gave birth to her daughter, Madeira Re, in July 2006. Read more

Gestational Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association, gestational diabetes is the most common pregnancy complication, affecting between 2 and 5 percent of women. It can strike women who were diabetic before becoming pregnant, as well as those who have no history of diabetes, and occurs more frequently in African-Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Pacific Islanders, South or East Asians and Native Americans than in other groups.

Gestational diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar. When you eat food, your digestive system breaks it down into glucose, a type of sugar, which enters your bloodstream and is converted to energy with the help of insulin, a hormone secreted by your pancreas. Just like type 1 and type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes occurs when the glucose remains in the bloodstream instead of being converted to energy. Experts at the American Diabetes Association are not sure why this occurs, but they believe that hormones secreted during pregnancy may make it difficult for the woman’s body to use insulin (a condition called insulin resistance), which allows more glucose to stay in the bloodstream.

If diabetes is left untreated, it can damage blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. Approximately 1 in 200 women of childbearing age has diabetes before getting pregnant (called preexisting diabetes). According to the March of Dimes, pregnant women with poorly controlled diabetes, especially preexisting diabetes, are at increased risk of certain pregnancy complications, including miscarriage, pregnancy-related high blood pressure, polyhydramnios (an excess of amniotic fluid, which can contribute to preterm labor), preterm delivery, serious birth defects, and stillbirth. High blood sugar in the first few weeks of pregnancy can increase the risk of birth defects, so early prenatal care is critical. However, the treatment of gestational diabetes has greatly improved and most women with the condition deliver healthy babies.

The biggest concern with gestational diabetes is that too much glucose will enter the baby’s bloodstream, causing it to gain too much weight, especially in the upper body, a condition called macrosomia. A macrosomic baby is too large to enter the birth canal, or the head may enter and the shoulders then get stuck. Your doctor will carefully monitor the size and health of your baby throughout your pregnancy, and especially during the third trimester. If your baby reaches a weight of 9 pounds, 14 ounces or more, your doctor may recommend you deliver by cesarean at term.

Gestational diabetes usually begins in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy (between the 24th and 28th weeks), and it often has no symptoms, so most women are routinely tested between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy. However, if you are considered high-risk for gestational diabetes, you will be screened before the 24th week of pregnancy.

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