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Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a serious complication during pregnancy
Gestational Diabetes
Credit: kazatin ©
Wednesday October 2, 2019

Gestational diabetes happens when your body isn't as responsive to blood glucose as it used to be and isn't making enough insulin to meet demands. This condition typically occurs between 24 and 28 weeks, but your caregiver will regularly check your urine for sugars that could indicate an early problem. Gestational diabetes occurs in about 10 percent of pregnant women and is growing more common. If diagnosed early, you can change your habits to manage the condition without affecting you or the baby. The jury is still out on how or why this happens, but there are risk factors that can increase your chances of acquiring gestational diabetes.

Risk Factors

  • Having a BMI over 30 or being overweight because the extra weight impacts insulin's ability to stabilize blood sugar
  • Having a higher level of abdominal fat in the first trimester
  • Being over the age of 35
  • Sugar in your urine
  • High blood pressure
  • If diabetes runs in your family
  • Gestational diabetes in a prior pregnancy
  • Elevated blood sugar before pregnancy
  • History of heart disease
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Are of African American, Asian American, Hispanic, Native American, or Pacific Island descent

Symptoms of Concern

You can acquire gestational diabetes without symptoms. However, most women experience some changes before diagnosis that potentially indicate a cause for concern.

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination, even more so than typically pregnancy frequency
  • Increased fatigue outside of pregnancy fatigue

Your doctor will check your urine, and they will do a few different blood tests for diabetes as well. Around 28 weeks, your doctor will request a blood glucose test to check for high glucose. If the results are positive, you don't necessarily have gestational diabetes, but you will need a more extensive 3-hour blood glucose test to be sure.

Things to Do

Should your 3-hour test indicate you have gestational diabetes, there are changes you'll need to make for the remainder of your pregnancy to keep you and your baby healthy.

  • Continue or start an exercise program under the guidance of your caregiver. Start slow. Exercising helps your body process glucose.
  • Maintain a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, high fiber, and low-fat options to help maintain a healthy weight gain.
  • Avoid processed sugars.
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight gain during pregnancy and avoid putting on excessive weight.
  • Monitor your blood sugar as recommended by your caregiver
  • Seek advice from a dietitian to ensure that your nutritional needs are met.
  • Keep a food log to determine which foods cause elevated sugar levels.

More Information

Untreated, gestational diabetes could cause excess sugar to enter the baby's bloodstream, putting the baby at risk for complications. Baby is likely to grow too fast and become too large, making delivery more complicated or resulting in high blood sugar levels at birth or obesity later in life. It can also cause the mom to develop pre-eclampsia (pregnancy-related high blood pressure).

If you get gestational diabetes, you'll probably need additional fetal monitoring during your third trimester. Gestational diabetes usually resolves after your baby is born. However, about half of those with gestational diabetes have a chance of developing type 2 diabetes after the baby is born, so you may need monitoring after your pregnancy.

Reference Sources

  1. American Pregnancy Association - Gestational Diabetes
  1. WebMD - Gestational Diabetes Guide
  1. American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology - Gestational Diabetes FAQs

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