November 14 is World Diabetes Day. In an effort to raise awareness and to prevent gestational diabetes your own pregnancies, here are 4 things you should know about gestational diabetes — especially if you’re considering becoming a gestational surrogate:
1. What is Gestational Diabetes?
All types of diabetes affect how efficiently your cells convert sugar in your body — your blood sugar levels become too high, which can quickly become life-threatening. Gestational diabetes develops only during pregnancy. It affects up to 10% of pregnant women in the U.S. each year.
There are two types of gestational diabetes. Women with class A1 gestational diabetes can manage the condition with diet and exercise alone. Class A2, however, requires insulin or other medications in addition to the diet and exercise changes.
Although gestational diabetes goes away after you give birth, it can permanently affect the baby’s health as well as your own.
2. Who is at Risk for Developing Gestational Diabetes?
Any pregnant woman can develop gestational diabetes. However, there are risk factors that you should keep an eye on if you’re planning on becoming pregnant as someone’s gestational carrier.
You may be at an increased risk for developing gestational diabetes if you:
- Are over the age of 25.
- Are not regularly physically active.
- Have a BMI of 30 or higher.
- Are of a nonwhite race.
In order to be accepted as a gestational surrogate, a woman must have no previous history of gestational diabetes or have any family history of diabetes. This helps reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes in the course of your surrogacy journey, and protects both you and the baby.
The physical requirements that a prospective surrogate must meet can seem a little excessive, but every requirement takes complications like gestational diabetes into account, so risk can be minimized at every possible opportunity. The safety of the surrogate and the baby are American Surrogacy’s first priority.
If you’re thinking about becoming a gestational carrier, your reproductive endocrinologist will assess your gestational diabetes risk factors, and will complete several screening processes.
3. How Can it Affect the Surrogacy Process?
Gestational diabetes is clearly not just a nuisance, but a danger to the surrogate, the intended parents and their baby. It can result in health complications for the surrogate like:
- High blood pressure and preeclampsia, which can be life-threatening to be the baby and yourself.
- The need for a surgical delivery (C-section).
- Increased likelihood of future diabetes — recurring gestational diabetes in future pregnancy, as well as an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on.
Gestational diabetes complications for the intended parents’ baby can include:
- Excessive birth weight, which makes the baby more likely to become wedged in the birth canal, sustain birth injuries or need a C-section birth.
- Early (preterm) birth.
- Serious breathing difficulties called respiratory distress syndrome.
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which can cause seizures.
- An increased risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.
- And even stillbirth, if the gestational diabetes is not treated.
All this is pretty scary. That’s why it’s so important that you work with American Surrogacy to ensure that you are low-risk for developing gestational diabetes. But, there are also some additional measures you can take to avoid gestational diabetes:
4. How Can You Avoid Developing Gestational Diabetes?
Even if you aren’t considered high-risk for developing gestational diabetes, surrogates are still encouraged to take steps that will not only help them to avoid gestational diabetes, but will also help them to have a healthy and safe pregnancy.
Both before and during your journey as a gestational carrier, be sure to:
- Eat healthy foods, especially foods high in fiber and low in fat and calories. Watch your portion sizes, and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Exercise, before and during the pregnancy. Aim for about 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week. Even daily walks, bike rides, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can help.
- Start pregnancy at a healthy weight. This is why surrogacy agencies like American Surrogacy require gestational surrogates to have a healthy BMI before they can be accepted into the surrogacy program — it lowers the health risks for you and for the baby.
- Keep an eye on your weight throughout the IVF processes and pregnancy. All women will gain weight during pregnancy — this is normal and healthy. However, gaining too much too quickly can increase your risk for gestational diabetes and other health complications. Work with your doctor to stay within a healthy weight range throughout the surrogacy process and pregnancy.
Not sure if you might be at-risk for developing gestational diabetes? Talk to your doctor about your concerns. Thinking about becoming a surrogate? Start the American Surrogacy screening process, and we’ll work with you to assess your risk level for gestational diabetes.
Share this blog to raise awareness about gestational diabetes in honor of World Diabetes Day, and to help women learn how to prevent the condition whenever possible.