Gestational Diabetes

What is Gestational Diabetes?

by Stefanie Zinchiak M.Ed.
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Linda Lemay M.D. 

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that develops during pregnancy (gestation). Approximately 7% of pregnant women will develop this condition, in which your body has too much sugar in the blood.

The GOOD News:
Gestational diabetes typically goes away after birth and is controllable by eating healthy foods, exercising and if necessary, taking medication.

The BAD News:
If you’ve had gestational diabetes in one pregnancy, you’re more likely to have it in subsequent pregnancies. You’re also at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

The Solution:

Prevention is the best medicine, but if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, just remember that you’re in control- you’ve got this!

Diagnosing Gestational Diabetes

Obstetricians use blood tests to diagnose gestational diabetes. Testing typically occurs between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy using the glucose challenge test, the oral glucose tolerance test, or both. With the glucose challenge test a health care professional will draw blood 1 hour after drinking a sweet liquid containing glucose. If blood glucose levels are 200 or higher this would be considered as having gestational diabetes. For levels between 140 and 200, the doctor may require a follow up test, called the oral glucose tolerance test. You can learn more about testing and diagnosis here

Diagnosing Gestational Diabetes

Obstetricians use blood tests to diagnose gestational diabetes. Testing typically occurs between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy using the glucose challenge test, the oral glucose tolerance test, or both. With the glucose challenge test a health care professional will draw blood 1 hour after drinking a sweet liquid containing glucose. If blood glucose levels are 200 or higher this would be considered as having gestational diabetes. For levels between 140 and 200, the doctor may require a follow up test, called the oral glucose tolerance test. You can learn more about testing and diagnosis here

 

Risk Factors for Gestational Diabetes

  • Age: Most women are 30 years or older.
  • Weight: Women who are overweight or obese prior to getting pregnant, or those who gain a lot of weight during pregnancy.
  • Race: African-American, Native American, Asian, Hispanic or Pacific Islander are at higher risk.
  • History: If a woman has had the condition in a previous pregnancy, or gave birth to a baby over 9 lbs.

*The more risk factors, the greater your chance of having gestational diabetes. However, even women without any risk factors can develop the condition.

Treating Gestational Diabetes

Work with your healthcare provider and dietician to develop a special meal plan and exercise routine. You may also be required to do daily blood glucose testing and insulin injections.

A regular exercise routine allows your body to use glucose without extra insulin. This in turn, helps combat insulin resistance, which is particularly helpful for individuals with diabetes.

Generally, a healthy diet focuses on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These are high in nutrition and fiber and low in fat and calories. Limiting consumption of refined carbohydrates and sweets is equally important.

Treatment will help lower the risk of a cesarean section birth, which is required for babies that are very large.

Did You Know?

  • Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for women who have had gestational diabetes. Research shows it will allow for better control over their weight and diabetes risk. Plus, it may improve their child’s long-term health
  • Research shows there is a strong correlation between not getting enough sleep and the risk of gestational diabetes.
  • 1 in 3 women with gestational diabetes might need insulin as part of their treatment, which is found to be safe during pregnancy.
  • There is a strong link between gestational diabetes and childhood obesity, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.

You should schedule another blood test with your healthcare provider, after giving birth and then every 1 to 3 years following that, to ensure your blood sugar stays in check.

In the end, stay positive knowing that you’re in control and the best tools for success are good nutrition and exercise.

Where to Go

Choosing where to deliver your baby is an important decision. “New moms have many choices when it comes to having their baby, so choosing the best birthing experience is right up there with choosing the best doctor. We’ve made it easy for moms to vet out the hospitals that are proven to deliver an outstanding experience,” said Delia Passi founder and CEO of the Women’s Choice Award.

The America’s Best Hospitals for Obstetrics have met the highest standards for Obstetrics across the U.S.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor:

Q: When will I be tested for gestational diabetes and how do I prepare for the test (i.e. fasting)?

IF DIAGNOSED, ASK:

Q: Can you recommend a dietician?

Q: What will determine if I need medication?

Q: What symptoms should alert me to seek medical attention?

This content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical advice or to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease or condition.  Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider. 

Sources:

http://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/gestational-diabetes.aspx

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gestational-diabetes/basics/definition/con-20014854

http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/gestational/how-to-treat-gestational.html

http://www.everydayhealth.com/pictures/gestational-diabetes-dos-donts/#09

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