Gestational Diabetes ׀ What You Need To Know

About 15% of women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, however, there is a higher rate in American Indian, African American, Asian, and Hispanic women. Women that are overweight before becoming pregnant, have a family history of diabetes, or have had gestational diabetes in prior pregnancies are also at higher risk.


What are the effects of gestational diabetes?

High or poorly controlled blood sugar during pregnancy can lead to high blood pressure and other complications for both the mother and baby. The sugar travels through the placenta to the baby which can cause a higher birth weight and difficult delivery, possibly even a cesarean section. Other effects include:




Women are generally screened with a blood test between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. Testing may be done earlier if pre-pregnancy BMI is 30 or greater or there is a family history of diabetes. The glucose challenge test requires drinking a solution with glucose added and blood drawn 1 hour later. If the challenge test has a result of 140 or higher, the healthcare provider will order a glucose tolerance test (GTT). The GTT requires fasting for at least 8 hours. A blood draw will take place and then another glucose solution will be provided. Blood draws will take place every hour for 2-3 hours afterward. If 2 or more of those results show a high blood sugar level the diagnosis of gestational diabetes is made.



While it is good to be concerned about a diagnosis of gestational diabetes, once a diagnosis is made the most important thing to do is learning more about the condition. Some critical items to understand:




75% of women can control their blood sugar with diet and exercise alone. Correct size portions, how often meals are consumed and when will all play a part in controlling blood sugars. Making meal plans with the help of a dietician is a great way to stay on track. Exercise also plays a role in controlling blood sugars. Exercise helps move sugar to cells for energy which in turn lowers the level in the blood. Making moderate exercise part of a daily routine may also help relieve some discomforts of pregnancy such as bloating, back or leg cramps, constipation, and trouble sleeping.



Once delivered, the baby will be checked and treated if blood sugar levels are too high or low. The mother’s blood sugars will be watched for several weeks after delivery. Over 90% of the time blood sugars return to normal but there is still a risk for later development of Type II diabetes so it’s important to be rechecked every 3 years.

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