pregnant woman getting her insulin tested by a doctor

Gestational diabetes: what you need to know

Gestational diabetes describes the onset of diabetes during pregnancy. Diabetes encompasses a group of diseases that inhibit the body’s ability to properly process sugar, and results in dangerously high glucose levels. It usually goes away after delivery, but may raise a woman’s chances of developing diabetes later in life.

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is the appearance of diabetes during pregnancy in a woman who did not previously suffer from diabetes, and if left untreated, it can be very harmful for both you and your baby. Gestational diabetes usually develops during the second trimester of pregnancy and doesn’t have many warning signs, so healthcare providers tend to screen most women’s blood-sugar levels between 24 and 28 weeks, and perform a follow-up test, known as the Glucose Tolerance Test, if the initial screen raised any red flags. It affects between about 4-8% of all pregnant women.

How can gestational diabetes affect the pregnancy?

If a mom develops gestational diabetes, her baby could be at risk for a number of complications like jaundice, an increased risk of diabetes later in life, preterm birth, dangerously high birth weight, and respiratory distress syndrome, a condition in which the lungs aren’t well-enough formed to function on their own yet. Women who come down with gestational diabetes need to be extra careful about their diet and exercise to protect their babies from these complications.

How can gestational diabetes affect you?

A woman who develops gestational diabetes has an increased chance for developing preeclampsia, another dangerous condition of pregnancy, as well. Women with gestational diabetes also have a heightened risk for developing diabetes later in life, whether gestational or not. Those with gestational diabetes are also more likely to require a C-section.

Treating gestational diabetes

The best way to treat gestational diabetes is through a healthier diet, and exercise. Most women who develop gestational diabetes are able to treat it merely through these natural remedies, but some may need insulin injections in order to control the blood sugar level. The best thing you can do is to keep a close eye on your blood sugar levels to make sure that all is under control.

Will the diabetes hang around?

Gestational diabetes usually disappears in the weeks and months after delivery, but women who have developed it during a pregnancy are more likely to develop it again during their next one. There is also a heightened risk for Type II Diabetes (adult-onset), so it’s important that women who have had gestational diabetes closely monitor their blood sugar levels.

Read more
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. "Gestational diabetes." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 4/25/2014. Web.
  • "Gestational Diabetes: FAQ177." ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 9/13/2015. Web.
  • Deirdre K. Tobias, SM, Cuilin Zhang, MD, PHD, Rob M. van Dam, MD, PHD, Katherine Bowers, PHD, Frank B. Hu, MD, PHD. "Physical Activity Before and During Pregnancy and Risk of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus." Diabetes Care. American Diabetes Association, 9/27/2010. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. "Glucose tolerance test." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 3/12/2015. Web.
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