Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes developed by pregnant women who did not have diabetes before getting pregnant. On average, about 10% of pregnant women develop this type of diabetes, which can lead to significant problems for both mother and baby.

The good news is that complications are minimal if the mother controls her blood sugar with diet, exercise, and medication. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know.

Causes of Gestational Diabetes

This type of diabetes occurs when the body can’t make enough insulin during pregnancy.
When you eat, your pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin that breaks down glucose in food. Pregnancy hormones can interfere with how insulin is secreted and works throughout the body, resulting in increased blood sugar levels and diabetes.

Who Is at Risk for Gestational Diabetes?

Risk factors can include:

  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Prediabetes before pregnancy
  • History of gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies
  • Having polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • History of high blood pressure or heart disease
  • A family history of diabetes
  • History of delivering a baby weighing more than nine pounds
  • Certain races, such as people who are black, Hispanic, American Indian, or Asian American

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

The symptoms of gestational diabetes are not distinguishable from pregnancy symptoms, so many women may not suspect anything is wrong. This is why testing is essential. Some signs and symptoms include:

  • More frequent urination
  • Increased thirst and appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Yeast infections

How Is Gestational Diabetes Diagnosed?

Women are typically tested between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy. Although there are alternative ways of testing for diabetes, the most common test is the glucose challenge test. Your doctor will ask you to drink a glucose solution and check your blood sugar one hour later. If your blood sugar is below 140mg/dL, you do not have this condition.

If your blood sugar exceeds 140mg/dL, your doctor will ask you for a second glucose tolerance test. For this test, your will drink another glucose drink, and your blood sugar will be checked hourly for three hours. If these results remain high, your doctor will diagnose you.

Complications of Gestational Diabetes

If left untreated, this can lead to complications for both the mother and the child. Some complications can include:

  • Increased birth weight
  • Shoulder dystocia or other birth injuries
  • Postpartum hemmerhage
  • High blood pressure or preeclampsia
  • Prenatal or postnatal depression
  • Preterm birth
  • Stillbirth
  • Increased risk of cesarean delivery

Gestational diabetes can also cause long-term effects for babies, including:

  • Breathing problems
  • Jaundice
  • Low blood sugars
  • Obesity and diabetes later in life

Treatment for Gestational Diabetes

There are many different ways to manage this diagnosis. However, the most important thing you can do to manage your blood sugar is to follow a healthy eating plan, which can include healthy snacks for diabetics and remain active during your pregnancy. Your doctor may prescribe medication if eating well and exercising are not enough to manage your blood sugar.

Take Steps for a Healthy Pregnancy

If you are concerned you may develop gestational diabetes during your pregnancy, talk with your doctor today to learn how you remain healthy throughout your pregnancy.

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