Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy.
At 4 months old, Liam Barraclough glows with good health. The bright and happy baby is his mother’s reward for her dedication to making every healthy move she could to give him a good start in life. And mom Amber credits the team of professionals at NorthBay Medical Center’s ABC (A Baby’s Coming) Prenatal Program for guiding her through her pregnancies.
“I was worried about this pregnancy right from the start,” Amber, 29, says. “With my daughter, I had preeclampsia and remained in the hospital for five days after giving birth. I didn’t want to go through that again.”
“My goal was a healthy baby and that’s what I have.”
Preeclampsia is a disorder that only occurs during pregnancy and the postpartum period and affects both the mother and the unborn baby. It is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by dangerously high blood pressure and is a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death.
The ABC Prenatal Program provided Amber with care that was essential to diagnose and manage her preeclampsia. During her second pregnancy she worried that the preeclampsia would return. But it wasn’t preeclampsia that threatened Amber’s second pregnancy. It was gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. It means having more sugar (glucose) in your blood than your body needs or uses. That extra sugar is transferred to the baby who stores it as fat. That’s why many women with gestational diabetes have very large babies. Large babies are more difficult to deliver and can be prone to birth injuries such as a broken arm or shoulder. In other cases, a baby can be stillborn due to chronic, unchecked blood sugar.
Amber’s diagnosis came a few days before Thanksgiving but she immediately chose to eat right and exercise to protect her baby. She also discovered that woman on both sides of her family developed diabetes during pregnancy.
Melinda Scholten, a nurse and registered dietitian, enrolled Amber into the ABC Prenatal Program’s Sweet Success class and helped her create a meal plan that provided good nutrition while controlling her blood sugar.
“Amber made a commitment to check her blood sugar four times a day during her pregnancy,” Melinda says. “And she learned what foods would cause a spike in her blood sugar. For her, it was potatoes. If her sugar spiked, she would walk for at least 30 minutes after eating.”
Having a 3-year-old at home made it a challenge to eat right, Amber says. She gave up drinking sodas and changed her breakfast to old-fashioned oatmeal. And she started walking four to seven days a week.
“Amber cheerfully made the changes necessary to protect her baby and she soaked up information that would help her baby be healthy,” Melinda says.
On Feb. 20, Liam was born full-term (40 weeks) at NorthBay Medical Center. He weighed a healthy 7 lbs. 13 oz. “I wanted a natural delivery with no pain medications and no IV fluids,” Amber says. “I went into labor at 8:30 a.m. and Liam was born at 8:57 a.m. My goal was a healthy baby and that’s what I have.”
Amber is now committed to breastfeeding her son, another step she can take to help him avoid a diagnosis of diabetes later in life.