What are the actual risks to the baby with a mother’s gestational diabetes? Does holiday eating matter?—Anonymous
Gestational diabetes, as distinct from Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, is a condition that develops during pregnancy. It is more common among women who are at risk for Type 2 diabetes pre-pregnancy (those who are overweight or obese, or have had high blood sugar readings before pregnancy), but it can develop even among women with no risk factors.
Gestational diabetes is associated with larger babies, who are at higher risk for complicated births (a need for instruments in delivery, or a caesarean section), and is also linked with short-term complications in infants, including blood sugar regulation issues.
The good news is that most of these complications are limited by detecting and controlling gestational diabetes. There is a reason we screen for gestational diabetes in all pregnant women — this is the test where you drink the really gross sweet liquid — which is that there is something we can do about it. For the vast majority of cases, management means dietary change and possibly some blood sugar monitoring. The dietary changes are the ones you’d expect: more fruits and vegetables, lean meats, whole grains. It is similar to the diet you’d be recommended with Type 2 diabetes.
Which gets us to your question of holiday eating. If you’re pregnant and do not have gestational diabetes, there is no particular reason to think a few extra holiday cookies will put you on that path. If you already have gestational diabetes, though, then dietary control is key. And the cookies might have to wait until next holiday season.