You have probably heard of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but have you heard of gestational diabetes? This type of diabetes develops during pregnancy and usually goes away after your baby is born. The alarming issue is that it is a precursor to developing type 2 diabetes later on in life. In fact, “about 50% of women with gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes.” If you develop gestational diabetes, your baby is also more likely to develop obesity as a teenager and can develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
We spoke to our resident Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Judy Ancheta Goguen. We asked her to discuss gestational diabetes and how you can prevent its onset to protect both yourself and the baby. She also spoke to us about how to manage this condition if it does develop during pregnancy.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
It is a condition where a pregnant woman develops high blood sugar levels during pregnancy, even if they have not previously been diagnosed with diabetes. Typically, this condition is detected weeks 24 to 28 of your pregnancy and affects how your cells use glucose. Gestational diabetes also increases the risk of pre-eclampsia, a condition with high blood pressure leading to kidney or liver damage.
A diagnosis of gestational diabetes can have practical implications. It can mean an expectant mother is carrying a large baby, which may interfere with plans to deliver vaginally and lead to additional complications to mother and child. Many women with gestational diabetes can be asymptomatic, with only signs of increased thirst and frequent urination – both of which are common during pregnancy. For this reason, this condition can be more difficult to detect without the completion of an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT).
The good news is that blood sugar levels usually return to normal after delivery. Self-care post-pregnancy becomes increasingly important as you can be at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Why Pregnant Women Get Gestational Diabetes
It’s not clear why some women get gestational diabetes. Still, several risk factors can make you more prone to developing it.
Your hormone levels are important to keep your blood sugars in check. Insulin is a hormone produced in your pancreas that normally regulates the body’s ability to metabolize fats, carbohydrates, and protein, encouraging the uptake of our body’s glucose into our cells for use. Changes in hormone levels can make it harder for the body to process its blood sugars as it should, in an otherwise healthy individual.
Gestational Diabetes Risk Factors
Some factors put you at greater risk of developing gestational diabetes while pregnant. Your healthcare team (Obstetricians, Gynecologists, Midwives, Endocrinologist, Family Doctor, Dietician, and Naturopathic Doctor) can be resources to help you address your various risk factors. These risks can include the following:
- Gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- Having a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) before pregnancy
- Medical history of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Delivering a baby weighing more than 9 lbs
- Pregnancy with twins
- Maternal age greater than 25 years old
- Family history of gestational diabetes
- Are an ethnicity more prone to diabetes (African American, Hispanic, Native American, or Asian)
Prevent & Manage Gestational Diabetes
There are healthy steps you can take to prevent the onset of gestational diabetes. Dr. Judy Ancheta Goguen, ND has helped many women prevent and manage gestational diabetes through careful programming and sessions. Modifiable dietary and lifestyle recommendations can help you have a healthy pregnancy. Here are some ways a ND can help you have a healthy pregnancy:
In preparation for carrying a healthy baby to term, let your Naturopathic Doctor help you attain a healthy BMI! You can achieve this by having a ND analyze your dietary patterns and discovering nutrient-dense foods that consider your specific eating patterns. Sometimes food cravings result from a diet deficient in other key nutrients – your ND can help you understand what that may be, particularly as our own daily patterns are not always easy to self-analyze.
Individualized Nutritional Supplementation and Botanical Medicines
If medicinal food prescriptions don’t achieve results, we can guide you in selecting the best nutritional supplementation and botanical medicines given your unique medical history.
Healthcare Practitioner Referrals – We All Might Need Something Different!
Find out what holistic healthcare resources are available to assist you! Every person has unique needs and can benefit from healthcare providers with differing expertise, skill sets, and tools to advocate for your best care!
For instance, your ND might recommend you work closely with a physiotherapist to reduce excess weight before and during pregnancy, especially if you have any of the above-mentioned risk factors.
If pain is an obstacle to exercise, registered massage therapy by a therapist who specializes in pregnancy massage or reflexology can help. Acupuncture administered by your ND may also be appropriate to alleviate muscular discomfort as a non-pharmacological option so you can feel comfortable to complete the recommended exercises you need to maintain a healthy pregnancy weight.
Comprehensive (and Attainable!) Pregnancy Plans
Perhaps you had blood work completed with your medical team. Now you need support implementing strategies to help you achieve your target blood work references. This is where Naturopathy shines – your Naturopathic Doctor (ND) can walk you through how to achieve your goals with an understanding and appreciation of how both Western and Eastern medical frameworks can be advantageous to you, and in this, help you create realistic and sustainable treatment plans that take into account the obstacles identified.
An ND can help you prevent and manage a diagnosis of gestational diabetes by offering you:
- Non-pharmacological treatment strategies, including acupuncture.
- Optimizing sleep, which is a known contributor to gestational diabetes.
- Sustainable meal-preparation ideas that are low-glycemic index and nutritious for the entire family.
- Design a home exercise program so you may use major muscle groups and re-sensitize your body to insulin. You can easily achieve this from the comfort of your home, even if you do not find the idea of exercising appealing.
Start Planning Your Healthy Pregnancy Today!
If you plan on getting pregnant or are already pregnant, our team at DSANDA can help you stay healthy and active to reduce the chances of developing gestational diabetes. We offer virtual and in-office Naturopathic Medicine consultations with Dr. Judy Ancheta Goguen, ND. Her schedule is also open on weekends for busy families. At DSANDA, we have a stellar team of naturopathic doctors, physiotherapists, registered massage therapists, and osteopaths who focus on supporting you pre-conception, during pregnancy, and postpartum.
**Dr. Judith Ancheta Goguen, BSc (Hons), ND, is a board-certified Naturopathic Doctor who has been in practice since 2011 and has a focus on Reproductive Medicine, Family Medicine, and Chronic Disease Management. She is a graduate of McMaster University and the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. It has been her honour to serve the Burlington and surrounding communities and to be awarded Best Naturopath and Acupuncturist in the Burlington Post Reader’s Choice Awards. She is a St. Marguerite Bourgeoys FertilityCare Board Member and is dedicated to supporting those on their fertility journey and beyond.**