Gestational Diabetes

  • By Alyssa Grams
  • 04 Jul, 2017
Based on guidelines from Diabetes Canada. Illustration by Breanne Kelsey.

With a growing risk of gestational diabetes, learn how to stay healthy. 

What is gestational diabetes?

A type of diabetes that develops and occurs during pregnancy. Your body cannot produce enough insulin to handle the effort of a growing baby and changing hormone levels, and your blood glucose (sugar) levels rise. 

Who develops gestational diabetes?

Up to 20% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes, however, the women most at risk are those who: 

  • Are 35 years of age or older
  • Are from a high-risk group (Indigenous, Hispanic, South Asian, Asian and African)
  • Are obese (body mass index of 30kg/m2 or higher)
  • Have prediabetes
  • Had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • Have a parent, brother or sister with Type 2 diabetes
  • Have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or acanthuses nigricans (darkened patches of the skin)

How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?

It is important to be tested for gestational diabetes when you are pregnant, between 24 and 28 weeks gestation, to avoid complications during delivery. Medical laboratories, including DynaLIFE Medical Labs and Calgary Laboratory Services, offer gestational diabetes screenings—you will be given a glucose drink and then a blood sample will be taken. Talk to your physician when you become pregnant to arrange this test and assess your risk.

What happens if I am diagnosed with gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is manageable. You will work with your physician to manage your blood glucose levels through diet, exercise, and insulin to avoid complications in labour and delivery. Your blood glucose levels will return to normal after delivery, however, there is an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes permanently and of developing gestational diabetes with future pregnancies. After your pregnancy, it is important to manage your diet and exercise to decrease these risks.

Will my baby be born with diabetes if I have gestational diabetes?

No, but it does increase their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and becoming overweight. It is important to provide your child with a healthy lifestyle and take preventative measures to decrease the risk of becoming overweight.

How can I manage gestational diabetes?

Exercise.  While you may have to adjust your usual fitness routine, exercise will have a positive impact on your body and can also prevent high blood pressure and chances of post-partum depression. Check with your fitness studio to see if it offers specially prenatal classes or adjustments during regular classes, and work with an instructor who knows how to keep you safe and healthy. Some great options are prenatal classes at Blitz Conditioning in Edmonton, prenatal Pilates at Redefining Eve in Edmonton, prenatal yoga at Junction 9 in Calgary, and barre classes at Barre Body Studio in Edmonton and Calgary (the instructors are pros at adjustments for pregnant women). Talk to your physician about exercise while pregnant to learn what is appropriate for you and your body.

Eat well.  Eat smaller meals and sacks—try three larger meals and three snacks per day—with foods from all four food groups including produce such as fruits and vegetables, whole wheat products, low fat milk products, and protein such as meat, fish, and eggs.

Take Insulin.  Talk with your physician about insulin injections to manage your blood glucose levels. 

Can I get pregnant if I have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes? 

Yes, but it is important to manage your glucose levels, especially during the first 5-11 weeks of pregnancy. This is when the baby’s organs are beginning to develop and if blood sugar levels are irregular, the formation of the baby’s spinal cord and heart could be affected.

#ABfoodfight

By Alyssa Grams 13 Sep, 2017

While Alberta’s summer yield may be running dry, it is harvest time for many delicious fruits and vegetables. It’s also the perfect time for an early fall favourite: Zucchini!

Also known as summer squash, this versatile veggie may come late in the season, but its comeback game is strong. Low in calories and loaded with vitamins and minerals, this valiant vegetable always squashes the competition.

Zucchini for the Win!

Zucchini is 95% water, making it naturally low in calories and an excellent choice if you’re watching your weight. One serving (½ cup) contains 0.7 grams of protein , 1.9 g carbs  and 0.6 grams of fibre . That’s a steal of a deal when you consider it’s only 10 calories! And since zucchini is a low-glycemic  food, it won’t cause sharp spikes in your blood sugar ( 2 ).

And that’s not all! Along with vitamin A , potassium  and other important nutrients, zucchini also provides 15% (11 milligrams) of your daily vitamin C  needs ( 1 ). Vitamin C is best known for boosting the body’s immune system, which is extra important with flu season right around the corner.

It’s health benefits don’t stop there! As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C also helps squash free radicals in the body, which helps our bodies repair damage and fend off conditions like heart disease and cancer.

Get Squashed                

A favourite among Alberta’s gardeners, zucchini has a mellow flavour, soft edible skin and a creamy white flesh that makes it a delightful addition to any dish.

It can be sliced, diced or shredded and is delicious pan-fried, baked or raw. In addition to its tasty flesh, female zucchini plants also produce large yellow blossoms, which can be eaten raw or cooked.

Move over cuke, it’s time for the zuke! Here are some tasty ways to enjoy this fall favourite:

  1. Sauté a handful of chopped zucchini and add it to a veggie omelette
  2. Add diced zucchini to homemade or canned vegetable soup
  3. Toss matchstick or cubed zucchini into a curry or stir-fry
  4. Layer grilled zucchini, tomato and partly-skimmed mozzarella on a panini
  5. Thinly slice into “zucchini noodles” and toss in your favourite tomato sauce

Okay, so let’s say you just brought in your garden harvest and have no idea what to do with those monster zucchinis. Try grating them up and adding them to baked goods like muffins, loaves or chocolate cake. It may sound like baking blasphemy, but they add an extra dose of nutrition, a moist texture and a surprisingly delicious flavour.

For a breakfast muffin brimming with flavour and nutrition, try the Breakfast Zucchini Muffins in the Pure Prairie Eating Plan .

References

1) Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Nutrient Profile: Squash, summer, zucchini, raw. Retrieved from: https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/serving-portion.do?id=2225

2) University Health News Daily (2017). Glycemic Index Chart: GI Ratings for Hundreds of Foods. Retrieved from: https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/nutrition/glycemic-index-chart/

By Alyssa Grams 06 Sep, 2017

Every good parent wants to take a bite out of their kids’ hunger by offering up a nice, hearty granola bar. They’re small, portable and easy to toss in a backpack or keep in your car for when you’re stuck in traffic. But just because the right bar is perfect for almost any occasion doesn’t mean any bar is perfect for you.

Many of these bite-sized snacks are packed with more sugar than a donut and are so low in fibre and protein  they don’t stand a chance against your growling stomach.

So when faced with an ever-growing assortment of granola bars, how do you pick a smart snack over a chocolate bar in disguise?

By Alyssa Grams 09 Aug, 2017

University means a fresh start. You can put anything you want behind you, and instead look forward to who you want to become. Even if you aren’t moving away from home and you are entering your first year of university, many aspects of your life will still change.

It is important to remember that with the many changes university brings, your diabetes management may have to change too. A new living situation, new stressors, and new faces can cause your health to dip. But we have 3 tips to prepare you for living with diabetes in university.

By Alyssa Grams 09 Aug, 2017

Protein is a source of endless debate. Some bodybuilders say if you’re trying to bulk up, it should be the bulk of everything you eat. Others say the power of protein is overestimated. How did we get so mixed up about a few amino acids?

The fact is, it’s an essential nutrient that keeps your body functioning well by building and repairing muscle, hormones and enzymes, as well as your skin, nails and hair. But obviously there’s some confusion so I offer this to you: a protein primer.

By Alyssa Grams 01 Aug, 2017
Article by Robyn Braun, PhD
By Alyssa Grams 25 Jul, 2017

One of the first projects funded by the Alberta Diabetes Foundation when it was founded in 1988 was the clinical research of Dr. Ray Rajotte, which it funded for 12 years. Dr. Rajotte pioneered the first-ever islet cell transplant, which was the biggest breakthrough in diabetes research since the discovery of insulin. That work, plus an expanded islet cell transplant team and the addition of anti-rejection protocol, ended up becoming the international standard of care for islet cell transplantation.

Since 2000, when the protocol was developed, Alberta Diabetes Foundation has invested in a capital campaign to build the world-class building that now houses the Alberta Diabetes Institute. Since then, the Foundation has endeavoured to continue to invest in world-class research for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes right here in Alberta.

Alberta Diabetes Foundation works in tandem with the best-in-class Alberta Diabetes Institute to allocate funding where and when it is needed most, ensuring that important diabetes research and projects do not become stalled. The Alberta Diabetes Foundation is able to fund projects, even at early stages, often filling in gaps left by traditional granting organizations. The researchers in Alberta are confident that a world without diabetes is possible and, today they are doing more than providing sustainable solutions to treating diabetes -- our researchers are on their way to a cure.

By Alyssa Grams 19 Jul, 2017
Article compiled by Breanna Mroczek  with information from Dr. Mathew Estey, Clinical Chemist and Co-Director of Chemistry at DynaLIFE Medical Labs, and Dr. Christopher Naugler, Calgary Zone Clinical Department Head, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Medical Director
By Alyssa Grams 19 Jul, 2017
Post by Erika Brown
By Alyssa Grams 17 Jul, 2017

Symptoms

Imagine this. Recently you’ve noticed that your child hasn’t been acting quite like their usual self lately. You can’t quite pinpoint it, so you chalk it up to a rough week. But maybe that rough week turns into two.  You start to think on their behaviour more and you grow more concerned; they are always asking for extra water or juice at breakfast, they seem to be constantly hungry, they’re rushing off to the bathroom more frequently, and they are tired as soon as they step in the door from school.

Although these symptoms may seem common for children who may not have had a good night’s rest or for those going through puberty, that’s not always the case. These symptoms should be taken seriously, and if you notice these in your child for a prolonged period of time, you should discuss a glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test with your doctor. An A1C test will determine your child’s average blood glucose level over the past 3 months. If your child’s A1C level is 6.5 or over, if could mean that they have Type 1 diabetes.


Diagnosis

As a parent, your child’s Type 1 diabetes diagnosis can be earth shattering for both you and your child. So many thoughts can go through a parent’s head; why does it have to be my child? How is my child going to live with this? How am I going to be able to give my child everything they need now that they have this condition?

Every parent and child will go through this journey in their own way, but it is important to know that Type 1 diabetes is a disease that can be managed, and proper management will allow your child to live a healthy life. As for the questions, you have as a parent, we would like to help by providing you with a few answers.


Why does my child have to be diagnosed with Type  1 diabetes? Where does Type 1 diabetes come from? What could wehave done as parents to prevent it?

Type 1 diabetes is not a preventable disease. It is a mixture of genes and environment. Although scientists do not know the exact cause of Type 1 diabetes , they do know that genes and environment play a role . They have figured out that individuals who have a certain type of HLA complex (human leukocyte antigen on chromosome 6) may be susceptible to Type 1 diabetes. This complex can create an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by a viral infection.

Simply put, when your body tries to fight the viral infection, it may also attack beta cells in your pancreas—cells that make insulin. This process usually takes several years before symptoms develop. The right combination of genes (HLA complex) and environment (exposure to a viral infection) can contribute to the onset of type 1 diabetes.


How is my child going to live with this condition?

Diabetes will be a day-to-day change in you and your child’s life. Your child will require insulin injections. You might even be required to administer insulin injections for your child depending on recommendations from the doctor. You will also want to revaluate the lifestyle that you and your child live. Focus primarily on the diet and exercise your child gets. And remember to stay on top of these few daily tasks you will need to complete:

  • Administering insulin
  • Monitoring blood glucose
  • Making sure that your child is eating a healthy, balanced diet with diabetic guidelines (incorporating things like carb counting can help to manage blood glucose levels)
  • Ensuring that your child is getting exercise on a daily basis (involving them in two sports can mean practice up to four days per week and games on weekends)

Although it may not happen everyday, your child will go through highs and lows with their diabetes. Both diabetic highs and lows are serious and can be life threatening

Symptoms of a diabetic high and low are:

  • Tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Blurry vision

Symptoms of a diabetic low also include:

  • Headaches
  • Excessive sweating
  • Paleness
  • Shaking

You and your child’s first encounter with can be frightening. If you prepare yourself to know that symptoms and you are able to react accordingly, you can make your child feel safer in the earlier stages of this condition.


How am I going to be able to provide everything my child with everything they need to take this condition on?

The biggest change a parent can have on their child’s life is setting a great example. Your child relies on you and looks up to you. As a parent you should eat healthy, exercise, and take on proper responsibility for your own health. Your own accountability will benefit your child in the short-term and long-term. Additional support from friends and family will also help your child manage emotional and physical effects of the diabetes diagnosis. You may also consider joining a diabetes support group or participating in a run to fund diabetes research.

Advice from the following people can help ease the stress of your child’s diabetes:

  • An endocrinologist
  • A pharmacist
  • A nurse
  • A certified diabetes educator
  •  A registered dietitian
  •  An eye doctor
  • A dentist
  • A community of those who have children with Type 1 diabetes

As a parent, the best thing you can do for your child is simply to be there for them. Communicate with your child in a way that is supportive and will help to boost their self-esteem. Allowing your child to be open and honest with you will make treating diabetes that much easier.

No parent wants to see their children suffer. Remember that diabetes was not something that your child was marked for, and it isn’t your fault as a parent. As a family, you can work through this disease together, and put your child down a path of success.

By Alyssa Grams 10 Jul, 2017

Article by Breanna Mroczek. Photography by Darren Greenwood Photography.

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