What is Gestational Diabetes?

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes (also called gestational diabetes mellitus or GDM) is a what is gestational diabetes condition in which your body is not processing the sugar (called glucose) in your blood properly. When we eat certain foods containing sugar and starch, our bodies break that food down into glucose (blood sugar) to use for energy. Your pancreas has the function of producing insulin to help regulate the amount of sugar that is present in your blood. However, when you have gestational diabetes, your body does not produce enough insulin to handle the sugar in your blood. This can lead to some serious health problems including heart disease, kidney disease, and even blindness. There is no need to panic; a diagnosis of gestational diabetes does not mean that you had diabetes when you conceived, or that you’ll have diabetes after you give birth. Pregnancy puts unique demands on our bodies and sometimes causes conditions to arise that require a little extra attention while we are carrying a child.

What are the symptoms?

For most pregnant women, gestational diabetes does not cause any noticeable symptoms, which is why your doctor will test you for it at approximately 24 to 28 weeks. If you develop this condition during your pregnancy, you may need checkups more frequently during the last three months, when your doctor will regularly monitor your blood sugar level as well as your baby’s health. Your obstetrics doctor may refer you to other health professionals who specialize in the treatment of diabetes to help you learn techniques to manage your blood sugar level while you are pregnant.

What are the causes?

No one is certain of the exact cause of gestational diabetes. During pregnancy, the placenta produces high levels of hormones, almost all of which impair the action of insulin, which causes an elevation in blood sugar. As your term progresses, an increasing amount of hormones are produced, and these placental hormones can cause a spike in blood sugar.

How is the test performed?

Your obstetrics provider will test you for gestational diabetes by administering a glucose tolerance test at 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. If your provider thinks you’re at risk, you may be asked to take the test sooner. The test is administered in the doctor’s office. A fasting lab draw of blood is taken first to test your fasting glucose level. Then you will be asked to drink eight ounces of a glucose solution and your blood will be retested to see how your body processes the sugar.

Can it be avoided?

The healthier your eating habits are, the better life will be for both you and your baby. Since no one understands the true cause, there is no cure for the condition, but making healthy choices both before and during your pregnancy may reduce your risk of having gestational diabetes in future pregnancies. Risk factors include:

  • Being over the age of 25
  • Obesity and/or a lack of physical exercise
  • Previous occurrence of gestational diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • PCOS
  • Other hormone imbalances
  • Being prediabetic
  • Immediate family member with diabetes (parent or sibling)

If you are overweight, losing excess weight before becoming pregnant may help you avoid developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

How will it affect my pregnancy and/or my baby?

If you follow your heath care provider’s recommendations, you should be able to have a healthy and safe pregnancy and delivery. However, this condition does carry with it some health risks, including:

  • Cesarean birth
  • Perinatal depression (aka postpartum depression)
  • High blood pressure and preeclampsia
  • Premature birth
  • Birth injuries
  • Breathing problems
  • Jaundice
  • Low blood sugar
  • Stillbirth
  • Diabetes later in life

In most cases, gestational diabetes disappears after giving birth. However, the presence of this condition during pregnancy does make it more likely that you will develop diabetes later in life. To help reduce this risk, breastfeed your baby to help lose excess pregnancy weight, get tested for diabetes 4 to 12 weeks after your baby is born, achieve and maintain a healthy weight, and get tested again every few years.At Colorado Obstetrics and Women’s Health, our staff offers women complete, personalized, comprehensive care for all phases of life, from puberty through the childbearing years, into menopause and beyond. Give us a call today at (719) 634-8800 to schedule an appointment for a pregnancy test or wellness exam. We look forward to helping you achieve your best health.

Why Regular Pap Smears Are Important to Your Health

What is a Pap Smear?

A Pap smear is a procedure that is done in your doctor’s office to test for cervical cancer. Cells are collected from your cervix, usually during a regular annual pelvic exam. In women over 30, this test may be combined with an HPV (human papillomavirus) test, as HPV can cause cervical cancer, or the HPV test can be done instead of a pap test.

Why is it important?pap smear

A Pap smear can detect the presence of cervical cancer very early on, making these tests a literal life saver. Cervical cancer was the leading cause of death in women in the first part of the 20th century, but thanks to today’s Pap smears, that is no longer the case. Because the Pap smear can detect abnormalities and precancerous cells in the cervix before they progress to cancer, a Pap test is one of the most reliable steps a woman can take to protect herself against cervical cancer. More than 90 percent of cervical cancer cases are curable when detected early. Precancerous cells can usually be removed easily, preventing the development of disease.

What happens during a Pap smear?

A Pap smear is a simple, easy procedure that may be a bit uncomfortable but does not usually cause any real pain. The procedure is over quickly, and should not be done if you are menstruating, as it may affect the test results. You should avoid using spermicidal products, douching, and sexual intercourse the day before the test.

The Pap smear is done using a speculum to keep the vaginal walls open and provide your doctor access to the cervix, which your doctor will scrape using a small device that may cause slight irritation during the cell collection process. You may experience slight pressure, cramping, or very light bleeding immediately after the test, which should dissipate quickly. Be sure to let your doctor know if any discomfort or bleeding continues.

How often should I have a Pap smear?

In the last decade or so, the standards have changed when it comes to the frequency of having a Pap smear done. In the past, your gynecologist may have recommended that you have a Pap smear done every year, starting at the age of 21, or three to five years after you become sexually active. Because of advances in technology, it is no longer necessary to have a test done every year. Women aged 21 to 30 with normal Pap smear results should have the test every two years. For women aged 30 to 65 who have had normal test results in the past, a Pap smear is recommended every three years. For those who are over age 65, have had a hysterectomy, and/or who are not sexually active, a Pap smear is not necessary unless test results have been abnormal in the past.

At Colorado Obstetrics and Women’s Health, our staff offers women complete, personalized, comprehensive care for all phases of life, from puberty through the childbearing years, into menopause and beyond. Give us a call today at (719) 634-8800 to schedule an appointment for a Pap smear, pregnancy test, or wellness exam. We look forward to helping you achieve your best health.