Does breastfeeding affect gestational diabetes? An expert answers

Gestational diabetes in pregnant women is a common occurence, but it should be something they should keep an eye on.
Keep checking your sugar levels. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Ila Gupta Updated: 30 Oct 2023, 01:35 pm IST
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Diabetes is a chronic medical and lifestyle disorder affecting people worldwide. It is a disease in which the blood sugar rises and if not controlled, it adversely affects all the systems of the body. Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition in which blood sugar rises above normal level affecting only during pregnancy and might return to normal after 3 months of delivery of the baby.

In general, diabetes can be Type 1 (insulin dependent) or Type 2 (non-insulin dependent).

gestational diabetes
Breastfeeding if you have gestational diabetes is considered safe. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Risk factors of diabetes

  1. Obesity
  2. Polycystic ovaries
  3. Previous impaired glucose tolerance test
  4. History of macrosomia
  5. Family history of diabetes

All women planning for pregnancy should be screened in preconception period with glucose tolerance test and HbA1c.

According to guidelines related to diagnosis and management of gestational diabetes mellitus, issued by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, 2018, all pregnant women
should be tested for gestational diabetes mellitus twice during pregnancy.

The first test should be done as early as possible and the second is repeated at 24-28 weeks if the first report is negative.

Also, read: Dear pregnant women, this is how you can prevent gestational diabetes

The test is done with an oral intake of 75 grams of glucose in 300 ml of water to be taken within 5-10 minutes irrespective of fasting state.

A single value of blood sugar is measured at 2 hour post ingestion of glucose. Cut off for diagnosis of gestational diabetes mellitus is more than or equal to 140 mg/dl.

The treatment includes lifestyle modification, oral hypoglycemics and/or insulin. If not treated then high blood sugar values may have adverse effects on pregnancy. Also, women with gestational diabetes have increased risk of Type 2 diabetes in later life which can be reduced by breastfeeding.

The benefits of breastfeeding are widely known for mother and baby.

  • It fastens the weight loss post delivery
  • Decreases the risk of postpartum depression
  • Stimulates and contracts the uterus to return to pre pre-pregnancy state. Breastfed babies get all nutrition from mother’s milk which is easily digestible, provides immunoglobulins and antibodies which aids in protecting babies from various illnesses.
  • Breastfeeding also creates positive feelings in the mother and
  • establishes the emotional bond between mother and baby.
gestational diabetes
Breastfeeding benefits both the mother and the child! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Women with gestational diabetes have added advantage as breastfeeding because:

  • It lowers the blood glucose levels
  • It increases insulin sensitivity and thus improving glucose metabolism.
  • It significantly reduces the risk of development of Type 2 diabetes in later life.

Breastfeeding should be encouraged in all women for the benefits but women with gestational diabetes should be encouraged even more for the added benefits.

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About the Author

Dr Ila Gupta is the Director, Ferticity Fertility Clinics, Delhi ...Read More

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