Happy Diabetes Alert Day!

Happy Diabetes Alert Day! (It’s today, Tuesday, March 27.) Well – maybe it’s silly to make such a wish. But it’s not silly to be alert to the increasing diabetes rates here in the United States.

For many women, the first time we think seriously about our blood sugar levels is when we get tested for gestational diabetes at our OB/GYN office between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy. This is one test our moms (and certainly our grandmothers) may ask about – regular screening for all pregnant moms began about 25 years ago.

No needle sticks here – the test involves drinking a very sugary, flat “soda” with 50 mg of sugar in it. (Some places you can eat eighteen Brach’s jelly beans instead!) Then you wait, and get your blood drawn. You can look at “the numbers” and see more about this test at The National Institute of Health website.

Having gestational diabetes increases a woman’s future chances of developing diabetes by 35-60%, and about half will develop diabetes over the next 10 years. Because so many of us are overweight or obese these days, getting this diagnosis during pregnancy can be a real wake-up call. It’s a time in our lives when we are more willing to make changes that are good for our babies, and good for us too.

Gestational diabetes is no joke. We’re lucky here at BMH – we have Hoty Smith RN, CDE, one of the top diabetes educators here in New England, to help moms learn more about their bodies and the effects of good blood sugar control. Our Nutrition Department helps with healthy diets for moms-to-be. Often it’s all that’s needed to turn things around. For some, other therapies and medications may be needed.

So what is the big deal?

Well, I remember in nursing school the joke was that if you didn’t know the answer to a question and you needed to guess, try diabetes. That’s because diabetes affects every cell of your body. During pregnancy it can make you more likely to get yeast infections, gain unhealthy weight, and suffer from urinary tract infections. You can see why it wasn’t always picked up before this screening test!

But mom isn’t the only one at risk — it makes differences in your baby’s life even during pregnancy. If your blood sugar level is high, your pancreas makes more insulin so your body can utilize that energy source. A baby who has been making lots of insulin in utero is going to get a big surprise – and a very low blood sugar level – when they get out here. The brain needs blood sugar to work properly. You can see where this is going – regular blood sticks to your baby’s heel, and sometimes even intravenous glucose water to make sure your baby’s brain isn’t suffering because of hypoglycemia. And babies whose moms are not taking care of their diets are more likely to overshoot their genetics and be born bigger than nature intended. That can make for a difficult labor and birth.

If you, or a friend, need more information about pregnancy diabetes, check out the National Institute of Health website.

Meanwhile – if you are thinking you could be eating more healthy, need to lose a bit of weight, and need to think about the first step, visit National Diabetes Education Program— because the changes we need to make begin with Just One Step!

Consider breastfeeding to continue combating diabetes after your baby is born. You will tend to lost weight in a healthy way while you’re breastfeeding, and your baby will gain weight in the healthiest way possible.

Come visit our New Moms Network on Wednesdays at 930 AM in the Brew Barry Exercise Room to meet some very healthy new moms and babies. This week Michelle Stephens will be showing off her considerable Baby Wearing skills. If you have a sling or carrier you are having a hard time with – come get some help from Michelle! No charge for this popular program. (You can see our schedule on the BMH website)

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