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child-health | pre-and-post-pregnancy

Gestational Diabetes: Serious but Treatable – S3 E5

Gestational diabetes occurs when your body can’t make enough insulin during your pregnancy. It can be scary for many folks but the good news is – the condition is treatable and often goes away after pregnancy.

Jessica speaks with Raquelle Weight, a Staff Development Specialist at the Arizona Department of Health Services in the Bureau of Nutrition and Physical Activity, to explain how this condition can affect your pregnancy and ways to prevent it from developing.

Podcast Resources:
ADHS: Diabetes Program
Strong Families AZ
Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez
Podcast Credits:

host Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez is the Chief of the Office of Children’s Health at the Arizona Department of Health Services. She is married, has two young children, and loves reading (anything except parenting books!) and watching movies and TV. She loves to spend time with her kids (when they aren’t driving her crazy) and celebrating all of their little, and big, accomplishments. Jessica has been in the field of family and child development for over 20 years, working towards normalizing the hard work of parenting and making it easier to ask the hard questions.

host Guest: Raquelle Weight is a Staff Development Specialist at the Arizona Department of Health Services in the Bureau of Nutrition and Physical Activity


[00:00:00] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Welcome to another episode of The Parenting Brief. I’m your host, Jessica Stewart [00:00:10] Gonzalez, an Arizona working mom and Chief of the Office of Children’s Health at the Arizona Department of Health Services. Raising children is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t come without [00:00:20] challenges. That’s why we share tools and techniques to help parents like you prep for the hurdles and hiccups that pop up along the way.[00:00:30]

[00:00:33] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Thank you for joining me on this episode of the Parenting Brief. Some of the challenges of having a little one can start [00:00:40] before they’re even born during pregnancy. Most pregnant people can expect to feel some discomfort, but it’s important to know the difference between what’s normal and a more serious complication.[00:00:50]

[00:00:50] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Today we’re talking about gestational diabetes, which can develop when someone is pregnant. Our guest today walks us through how this condition can develop, what it means for pregnant people [00:01:00] and more. All of that is up next.

[00:01:07] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Today, Raquelle Weight is here with us to talk [00:01:10] about gestational diabetes. She’s with the Arizona Department of Health Services and is a registered dietician. Raquelle, thank you for coming on the show today.

[00:01:17] Raquelle Weight: You are welcome. Thank you so much for having me. [00:01:20]

[00:01:20] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: So let’s start off by just talking about what is gestational diabetes and why does it occur?

[00:01:27] Raquelle Weight: All righty. That’s a great first place to start off. [00:01:30] So first of all, I did wanna say that there are a couple different ways that diabetes can develop. So if what we’re talking about doesn’t sound like you or someone you know, you might have a different type of [00:01:40] diabetes. The simple definition of gestational diabetes is when there is too much sugar in someone’s blood during pregnancy.

[00:01:48] Raquelle Weight: And to understand how that [00:01:50] happens, you kind of have to talk a little bit about how your body works first. So anytime you eat foods that contain carbohydrates, your intestines will actually break those [00:02:00] down into the smallest possible pieces of sugar, which are called molecules, and then they get absorbed into your bloodstream and sent out for your cells to pick up and use as [00:02:10] energy.

[00:02:11] Raquelle Weight: You have a hormone that’s called insulin. And that will tell the cells in your body to pick up the sugar and use it as energy. So something that happens [00:02:20] normally during pregnancy around the late second trimester, early third trimester, is that you become a little bit insulin resistant, and what that means is that the cells in [00:02:30] your body don’t hear the message that insulin is sending quite as clearly, and they don’t pick up the sugar as readily.

[00:02:36] Raquelle Weight: Most of the time, that is normal and it doesn’t really [00:02:40] cause any problems. It actually can help the baby get more sugar so they can put on the pounds that they’re putting on in late pregnancy, however, Sometimes that can go a little bit too far and your [00:02:50] cells aren’t picking up enough sugar, and that is when it develops into gestational diabetes.

[00:02:55] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: And what are some of those signs or symptoms if somebody has [00:03:00] gestational diabetes?

[00:03:01] Raquelle Weight: That is a great question. And one of the weird things about gestational diabetes is most of the time there aren’t any signs and symptoms, which is why it’s [00:03:10] so important to go and get tested. ‘Cause you could have it and never know.

[00:03:14] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: So then what happens, or what is that risk then of not finding out?

[00:03:19] Raquelle Weight: So to [00:03:20] the pregnant person, you are at higher risk of having high blood pressure during pregnancy and preeclampsia during pregnancy. If your gestational diabetes goes untreated, [00:03:30] you may also have a more difficult birth or have to have a C-section.

[00:03:33] Raquelle Weight: And long-term, you’re at increased risk of developing type two diabetes in the future, there are some risks to the [00:03:40] baby as well. And those could include the baby being born too large, ’cause they’re picking up all that extra sugar that you’re not absorbing. They might be born preterm, they might have low blood [00:03:50] sugar at birth because they’re used to being pumped with sugar and suddenly it’s gone.

[00:03:53] Raquelle Weight: They might have difficulty breathing at birth and they might also develop diabetes in the future. And unfortunately, having [00:04:00] untreated gestational diabetes also increases your risk of stillbirth.

[00:04:04] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: And how does one find out? Since there’s no real signs or symptoms, but there are all of these risks. [00:04:10] How does somebody find out if they do have gestational diabetes?

[00:04:15] Raquelle Weight: It’s really important to go to a healthcare provider during your [00:04:20] pregnancy as soon as you know you’re pregnant because then they can get you tested. So most of the time, Women are tested around weeks 24 to 28 in [00:04:30] pregnancy, because that’s when gestational diabetes typically develops. However, if your healthcare provider feels that you’re at an increased risk of developing diabetes, they might test you a little bit [00:04:40] earlier just because usually the earlier you catch it, the better.

[00:04:44] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Okay. So what then does, if somebody is tested, they find that they have gestational diabetes, [00:04:50] is there anything that can prevent that?

[00:04:53] Raquelle Weight: So the answer to that one is kind of, since gestational diabetes, how it develops is so [00:05:00] complicated, experts don’t completely understand why some people get it and why some don’t.

[00:05:04] Raquelle Weight: However, there are some things you can do to decrease your risk of getting it, and that’s [00:05:10] basically just having an overall healthy lifestyle before pregnancy, during pregnancy and after pregnancy. So, Having a really well balanced diet. Plenty of fruits and vegetables, [00:05:20] healthy fats, lean proteins, whole grains, all that good stuff for your body to absorb and have healthy nutrients.

[00:05:27] Raquelle Weight: And then also having a pattern of regular [00:05:30] movement and regular exercise is really important because that’s, something that can really help with prevention, and it’s just really good to get your body [00:05:40] moving and make sure your blood isn’t stagnant and you can do whatever kind of exercise you enjoy as long as you’re doing it pretty often and regularly.

[00:05:49] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: So those things [00:05:50] just help prevent it, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that even in doing all of those things, it is still important to be tested because it could still happen.

[00:05:59] Raquelle Weight: Yes, that’s [00:06:00] correct. So those things will decrease your risk, but they aren’t gonna stop it from happening completely in some cases, unfortunately.

[00:06:07] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: So while it’s named gestational [00:06:10] diabetes, how long does this condition really last? Does it go after pregnancy or does it like suddenly, immediately go away after baby is born?

[00:06:19] Raquelle Weight: [00:06:20] Typically for most people, gestational diabetes does go away. As your body goes back to a non-pregnant state. I think that’s a little bit different for a lot of people.

[00:06:28] Raquelle Weight: But usually they’ll test you six to [00:06:30] eight weeks after the baby is born to see if you still have it. For most people it does go away, but for some people it doesn’t. And then it’s classified usually as [00:06:40] type two diabetes instead of gestational diabetes ’cause it’s diabetes that’s continuing after pregnancy.

[00:06:45] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Is there anything about gestational diabetes that you would want [00:06:50] our listeners to know that I did not ask?

[00:06:54] Raquelle Weight: Gestational diabetes can be really scary, especially if you think about the risks and the potential [00:07:00] complications, like that’s kind of terrifying. But the good thing is it’s really treatable working with your doctor and either doing diet [00:07:10] and exercise or medication, whatever it is that they recommend, can really help you keep your blood sugar under control and help you have a healthy pregnancy and your baby be healthy as well.

[00:07:19] Raquelle Weight: [00:07:20] Something else that is interesting is that there is a positive impact on those who have had gestational diabetes if they choose to [00:07:30] breastfeed. So if you’re not able to breastfeed, totally fine, but if you have had gestational diabetes and you breastfeed, then that actually decreases your [00:07:40] insulin resistance after birth helps your body kind of get back to that pre-pregnancy state faster, and it also decreases your risk of future gestational diabetes or type two [00:07:50] diabetes, and it also helps your baby grow at a healthy rate.

[00:07:53] Raquelle Weight: And that can help them be at less risk of developing type two diabetes in the future as well.[00:08:00]

[00:08:06] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: If you’re interested in finding out more about gestational diabetes and [00:08:10] what pregnant people need to know about it, take a look at the resources in the show notes. And while you’re there, follow the show on this podcast player so you’ll know each time we put out a new episode. [00:08:20] Also, if there’s anyone in your life who is pregnant or planning to become pregnant, please send this episode to them so that we can keep the conversation going.

[00:08:28] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Until next time, this is [00:08:30] Jessica. You’ve got this.

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