Gestational diabetes (GD) is a common medical condition that occurs in more than 200,000 pregnant women in the United States each year. Usually, hormones keep blood sugar levels stable. GD only occurs during pregnancy (gestation) because hormones change during pregnancy. These changes can cause blood sugar to rise. Like other types of diabetes, GD affects your cell’s ability to regulate blood sugar (glucose), and causes high blood sugar as a result. High blood sugar can affect your baby’s health and your pregnancy.
You may reduce the impact of GD by eating healthy foods and avoiding unhealthy foods. Not only may this help to keep your baby healthy, but it may also help you stay healthier during pregnancy and prevent a difficult delivery. Blood sugar levels should return to normal shortly after delivery. However, once you have experienced GD, you will need to be tested for diabetes more often. Some factors cause a greater risk of GD. These risk factors include:
- Race – Women who are American Indian, Asian, Black, or Hispanic
- Being overweight or obese
- If you have polycystic ovary syndrome
- If you have previously given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
- If you have previously had gestational diabetes or prediabetes
- If you have a sedentary lifestyle or lack of physical activity
- If an immediate family member (mother, father, sister, brother, or child) has diabetes
Gestational Diabetes Symptoms
Other than possibly experiencing increased thirst and a more frequent need to urinate, gestational diabetes typically doesn’t cause any other noticeable signs or symptoms.
Gestational Diabetes Diagnosis
Diagnosis will depend on whether you are at average risk or high risk of developing gestational diabetes (GD).
Your doctor may test for GD between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy.
You should tell your doctor if you have any of the risk factors listed above. If you do, then your doctor will test you early in pregnancy, probably at your first prenatal visit. Testing generally consists of:
Initial glucose challenge test
You will be given a syrupy solution to drink. An hour after drinking it, your doctor will do a blood test to check blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar level is high, your doctor may recommend another test to confirm if you have GD.
Follow-up glucose tolerance testing
This test is like the first test, except the syrupy solution will have more sugar, and your doctor will check blood sugar levels every hour for three hours. If two of the three blood sugar readings are higher than expected, you will receive a diagnosis of gestational diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes Treatments
There are three treatments for GD that work together. These treatments include:
This includes adjusting eating habits and exercising daily, making sure to follow the doctor’s instructions.
- Healthy diet – Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins are an essential part of a well-balanced diet. These foods are high in nutrients and fiber, and they are low in fat and calories. Reduce or eliminate sweets and other refined carbohydrates.
- Stay active – Daily exercise is essential. Simple activities like walking, swimming, riding a bicycle, or gardening can lower your blood sugar. As an added benefit, regular exercise can help reduce some of the discomforts of pregnancy. It can reduce back pain, swelling, muscle cramps, constipation, and insomnia. Be sure to discuss your activities with your doctor to design a plan that is right for you.
Blood Sugar Monitoring
our doctor may want you to check your blood sugar several times a day. Most likely, you will check it first thing in the morning and after each meal. Contact your doctor if you are having trouble maintaining a healthy blood sugar level so you can adjust your routine as necessary.
If blood sugar levels are still too high after adjusting your diet and exercise, medication such as insulin might be necessary to lower your blood sugar. Statistics indicate that 10% to 20% of women with GD need insulin to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Other Methods include
Close monitoring of your baby
Your doctor may check your baby’s growth and development with frequent ultrasounds or other tests. Your doctor may induce labor if you go past your due date to reduce the risk of complications for you and your baby.
Follow-up after delivery
You should continue to monitor your blood sugar after delivery to make sure it returns to normal. Your doctor will also check your blood sugar six to twelve weeks after delivery to make sure that your levels have returned to normal. If future tests indicate diabetes is present or that you have prediabetes, talk with your doctor to adjust your diabetes management plan, as needed.