A Digest of Gestational Diabetes


The current world is witnessing the rising prevalence of Gestational Diabetes, which is also termed as Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) – a health condition when a women who does not have diabetes but develops increased level of blood sugar during the pregnancy period which usually occurs 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy and also gestational diabetes increases the risk for developing type II diabetes mellitus in further stages of life. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, gestational diabetes affects 1 of 10 pregnant women. And also according to University of California San Francisco Medical Center, gestational diabetes occurs in about 7 percent of all pregnancies. And it usually arises in the second half of pregnancy and goes away as soon as the baby is born.

The consequences of Gestational diabetes are somewhat menacing as well. Gestational diabetes induces the risk of giving birth to a large sized baby which may cause complications during delivery.Besides, various symptoms and health hazards are evident in babies whose mother had gestational diabetes. Among the symptoms, increased risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), respiratory distress that creates barrier in entering oxygen to lungs and ultimately into the blood, decreased level of magnesium and calcium, jaundice and also a greater risk of developing diabetes in later stage of baby’s life – are mostly apparent.

Now we need to focus on the effective dietary pattern for the gestational diabetic patients. A gestational diabetic mother should consume starchy carbohydrates like whole grain bread, brown rice, pasta, legumes, beans, oats, potatoes and corns etc. which are high in fiber content and very much significant for digestion. Milk and yoghurt, especially low-fat contained dairy products can be the good choice for these patients and it should be ensured that patients do not choose sweetened dairy products to control their sugar level. Both the starchy carbohydrates and milk products must be consumed optimally so that the fetal needs can be fulfilled and at the same time blood sugar level remains controlled.    Moreover choosing low glycemic index and high fiber rich foods such as- pasta, porridge, beans, lentils, apple, orange, whole grain cereals and bread, bashmati rice etc. contain carbohydrates which are slowly absorbed is beneficial for gestational diabetic patients. Here glycemic index (GI) of a particular food indicates the measure of how quickly sugar (glucose) is released into your bloodstream after the consumption of that food.So that the mentioned foods of low glycemic index will release glucose into the bloodstream more slowly. And most importantly, added sugar should be strongly prohibited and aspartame, acesulfame K, sucralose etc. have got approval as safe during gestational diabetes.

Fruits are also rich in fibers and beneficial to the patient but fruit is also rich in natural sugars. That is why, a single fruit or half of a large sized foods should be taken daily. And as a glass of fruit juice contains more than one fruit pulps so that fruit is more prioritized over the juices. Dark green leafy vegetables and other colored vegetables are encouraged to eat for their fiber content, micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) content and antioxidant properties.

According to an evidence review done by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, increasing protein intake doesn’t appear to have any appreciable impact on how your sugar is digested or absorbed. But still I will prefer optimality always and a person who needs 2,000 calories per day needs about 75 to 100 grams protein per day. High bioavailability protein sources are animal origins like meat, fish, eggs, milk and plant origins like beans, peas and other leguminous seeds are of low bioavailability.

A gestational diabetic patient can divide her diet in 5 times a day- 3 main meals and 2 snacks like mid-morning snacks and mid-afternoon snacks.

Reviewing the current data of International Diabetic Federation (IDF) we find -20.9 million or 16.2% of live births to women in 2015 had some form of hyperglycemia in pregnancy. An estimated 85.1% were due to gestational diabetes, 7.4% due to other types of diabetes first detected in pregnancy and 7.5% due to diabetes detected prior to pregnancy and the greatest increase in the female diabetes population over the next 20 years will be in the Middle East and North Africa Region (96%), followed by the Africa Region (90.4%) and South East Asia (74.4%). Furthermore, IDF says that any unmanaged hyperglycemia in pregnancy can result in birth complications that can affect both mother and child including: increased risk of preeclampsia, obstructed labor due to fetal macrosomia and hypoglycemia at birth for the infant. As all of these prove that the gestational diabetes issue is at present alarming, we can hope that modified diet, safe exercise and only prescribed medication during complications can control the situation from getting worse.

Nandeeta Samad currently pursuing her Master degree under Institute of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Dhaka. She is also an associate Fellow, Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS), Youth Ambassador, ActionAid Bangladesh and Young Fellow, South Asian Youth Society (SAYS). She is from Bangladesh. Mail her at nandeeta6@gmail.com

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