You may have heard that too much of a good thing can be bad; we’re sad to say this even applies to all of those sweets you have been craving lately. At some point in your pregnancy, your OBGYN will discuss the various routine screenings you must undergo on your road to delivery, one of which is the glucose screening test. This test measures your body’s response to sugar (glucose).
During pregnancy, a woman’s hormonal changes can affect how insulin is used in the body’s cells. Insulin is the hormone responsible for helping the blood sugar in your blood make its way to the cells in your body to be used as fuel. When glucose can’t make it to your body's cells, it builds up in your blood. The placenta works to provide nutrients to your growing baby and produces hormones to maintain a healthy pregnancy. In some cases, these hormones can actually cause a build-up of glucose in your blood. As a result, you can have high blood sugar levels, which can be dangerous if left unchecked. The degree of insulin resistance established during pregnancy is related to the flux of glucose from a mother to her baby in the placenta. Sometimes, the body is not able to produce enough insulin to overcome the effect of placental hormones. This can result in gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), otherwise known as gestational diabetes (GD). A woman can develop gestational diabetes at any point during pregnancy, but screening typically happens around the 26th week.
How Can You Prepare for the Glucose Screening?
The glucose screening test is usually performed in your OBGYN’s office. You will be asked to drink a super sweet drink (50 grams of flavored syrup water). After an hour, your blood will be drawn and analyzed to determine your body's response to glucose. Elevated levels are generally considered any reading over the 130-140 mg/dL range. If this is the case, you will be asked to return, on a different day, for a three-hour glucose tolerance test to confirm the accuracy of the screening results. Here are some things to keep in mind to ensure the accuracy of your glucose screen results:
- Do not eat after midnight the day before the exam.
- Try your best to drink the entirety of the solution within five minutes.
- Do not eat anything after drinking the glucose solution.
- Do not drink any other beverages besides water after drinking the glucose solution.
Typically, you’ll know your test results within 24 hours. If your results come back higher than your OBGYN would like, and you are asked to follow up with a more detailed test known as a glucose tolerance test, do not fret. It is possible to have an elevated glucose level from your screening test, and then the results of your glucose tolernce test (which is more accurate) come back in the normal range. Therefore, failing the first screen does not necessarily mean you have gestational diabetes. If, however, you are diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to take the necessary steps to manage your condition to prevent any possible complications.
What Are Risk Factors Associated with Gestational Diabetes?
If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, your baby may be at increased risk of:
- Excessive birth weight (increased cause for birth injury or C-section birth)
- Pre-term birth & respiratory distress syndrome
- Low blood sugar (severe cases may cause seizures in baby)
- Higher risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes later in your child’s life
Are There Measures You Can Take to Prevent Gestational Diabetes?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year, an estimated 2% to 10% of pregnancies in the United States are affected by gestational diabetes. While some women are more likely to develop GD, there are preventative measures you can take for the health of you and your baby. Guidelines issued by The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) on gestational diabetes recommend women do the following:
- Maintain a healthy diet: Be mindful of portion sizes and choose foods high in fiber and low in calories and fat. Eat complex carbs like whole grains, starchy vegetables, natural sugars; eat light snacks to stabilize blood sugar levels. (A classic favorite is apple slices with almond butter spread. Yum!)
- Keep an active lifestyle: Exercising during pregnancy can help reduce your risks. Strive for 30 minutes of moderate activity at least five days a week. Be sure to consult with your OBGYN about an exercise program that will work best for you.
- Establish a healthy weight before pregnancy: Losing excess pounds before pregnancy may help you carry healthy habits into pregnancy (and make it easier to lose weight afterward: win-win!)
For most women, gestational diabetes will go away after birth. Women with a history of gestational diabetes during pregnancy, who have not been previously diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus, are encouraged to be screened for it after birth. According to The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative, initial testing should ideally occur within the first year postpartum and can be done as early as 4–6 weeks postpartum. Women diagnosed with gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. But, it’s not just women. New data from the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation report indicates, just over 34.2 million (roughly 1 in 10) Americans have diabetes, and 88 million American adults (approximately 1 in 3) have prediabetes. Findings also revealed that newly diagnosed type 1 and type 2 diabetes cases have increased among the U.S. youth population.
How Can Cord Blood Banking Play A Part in Treating Diabetes?
The stem cells found within your baby’s umbilical cord have been used in clinical trials worldwide for the treatment of both types of diabetes. Many of these trials explore mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) sourced from umbilical cord tissue. A meta-analysis looking at patients’ data among 154 participants, between ages 17 and 27, from 2012 onwards, suggests stem cell therapy in patients with type 1 diabetes may reduce hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), positively affect C-peptide secretion, and improve islet β cell (cells responsible for diabetes autoimmunity) function and regeneration. What does this mean? Essentially, the stem cells found within your baby’s umbilical cord are packed with beneficial properties capable of countering some of the harmful effects of diabetes. Additionally, cord blood is an FDA-approved treatment for nearly 80 diseases, including numerous other types of metabolic disorders and immune system deficiencies.
To learn more about research involving umbilical cord-derived stem cells in treating diabetes, visit our other blog article. If you have found value in our blog, and we really hope that you have, we invite you to learn more about these stem cells' potential in treating other conditions and why banking them for your family’s future use is so important.