Everything You Need to Know About Gestational Diabetes
By Kristen Dunleavy
A few weeks ago it was my friend’s birthday, and I wanted to do him a solid by providing him with the most baller cake I could find. Easy enough, right? Hit up a local bakery, have them squeeze some Red No. 1-laced frosting on top of a buttercream cake proclaiming ‘Happy Birthday!’and call it a day. Well, not so much. This particular friend has diabetes, and finding a sugar-free cake was a billion times harder than it should’ve been. I finally had to accept defeat and settle for a sad-looking angel food cake. But it’s the thought that counts, right?
My cake challenge was nothing in comparison to what millions of people with diabetes encounter every day. You’re probably already familiar with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes – with the latter becoming an epidemic in recent years, especially among African-American women. But there’s another type of diabetes that many women know very little about: gestational diabetes.
If you’re planning on getting pregnant any time soon, listen up! Nearly 20 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. are impacted by the disease, and that number is growing. Gestational diabetes causes complications for both mother and child during and after childbirth, with almost half of those women developing Type 2 diabetes later in life. Women with gestational diabetes develop it during pregnancy, so that doesn’t mean they had diabetes prior to conception.
Despite the heavy impact of this disease, we still know very little about what causes it or how to treat it. So what can you do? Get screened – only 68 percent of pregnant women do, and that number should be far higher. But don’t stop there. If you’re diagnosed, it’s critical to get the post-partum test to determine if you’ll be affected later in life.
Recently, Senator Susan Collins and Senator Jeanne Shaheen introduced the Gestational Diabetes Act, which is aimed to expand and enhance the monitoring of the disease, as well bolster research efforts so we can learn more about it. The legislation requires the CDC to work with health care providers to ensure that women who have been diagnosed receive the proper follow-up care.
For me, simply scheduling that initial doctor’s appointment is a victory in and of itself. When it comes to following up, let’s just say it’s not my forte. But if you’re pregnant, it’s imperative to get screened for gestational diabetes, and not just for your peace of mind – your child’s future hangs in the balance as well.