How Gestational Diabetes Affects You & Your Baby

If your doctor has told you that you have gestational diabetes, you're probably worried. Try not to be. The good news is that most women with gestational diabetes have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. Getting good treatment makes all the difference.

You're also not alone. Up to 10% of women develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy. In most women, the diabetes goes away after giving birth.

What Is Gestational Diabetes?

Right now, you might be confused. You didn’t have diabetes before, so why now? When you're pregnant, hormone changes can make your blood sugar level rise. That affects your baby, too, since the baby gets nutrients from your blood. Your baby stores that extra sugar as fat, which can make her grow larger than normal.

In most cases, after you give birth, the pregnancy hormones disappear, your blood sugar returns to normal, and your diabetes goes away.

How Will Gestational Diabetes Affect My Baby?

Because your baby may be larger than normal, he or she is at higher risk for some complications. Remember, these are just possible complications. Your baby might have none of them. They include:

Later in life, your baby might have higher risks of obesity and diabetes. So help your child live a healthy lifestyle -- it can lower his chances of developing obesity and diabetes.

How Will Gestational Diabetes Affect Me?

Gestational diabetes increases the chances of certain pregnancy complications. Your doctor or midwife will want to watch your health and your baby's health closely for the rest of your pregnancy.

Possible risks include:

After birth, you will have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle changes can lower the odds of that happening. Just as you can help your child, you can lower your own risk of developing obesity and diabetes.

Although you do have a greater chance of needing a C-section, many women with gestational diabetes have regular vaginal births. If your doctor or midwife recommends a C-section, ask these questions:

  • Why does my baby need to be delivered by C-section?
  • How accurate are birth-weight estimates? Could my baby be smaller than you think?
  • What are the risks to my baby and I if I don’t have a C-section?
  • What are the risks to us if I do have a C-section?

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What You Can Do: Step by Step

By teaming up with your doctor or midwife, you can do a lot of things to keep gestational diabetes under control. Good treatment dramatically lowers the chance of complications.

  • Eat healthy. Work with a dietitian or diabetes educator to plan meals and snacks that keep your blood sugar in a healthy range. You'll need to limit how many carbohydrates you eat and drink, because they can cause your blood sugar to spike. Avoid high-sugar foods such as soda and pastries.
  • Exercise. Get some physical activity every day to help manage blood sugar. Make your goal 30 minutes of moderate activity each day. For gentle exercise, try walking or swimming. Ask your doctor or midwife for advice.
  • Keep your medical appointments. Skipping check-ups could put your health and your baby's at risk. Your baby may need to be checked regularly in the doctor's office with ultrasounds or non-stress tests.
  • Take prescribed medication. You may need insulin or other medications to keep your blood sugar under control. Follow your doctor's or midwife’s recommendations. Make sure you understand how and when to use your medications.
  • Test your blood sugar. It can be a key way to watch your health. Your doctor or midwife may ask you to test your blood sugar several times a day.
  • Watch for signs of blood sugar changes. Make sure you know what to do when you notice them.

When to Call Your Doctor or Midwife

If you have gestational diabetes, part of your job is to monitor your health. If any of the following things happen to you, check in with your doctor.

  • You get sick and can't follow your eating plan.
  • You tested your blood sugar at home, and it’s above or below your target range.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD, FACOG on February 07, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Gestational Diabetes."

American Diabetes Association: “Gestational Diabetes."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Diabetes & Pregnancy,” “Gestational Diabetes.”

Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford: “Infant of Diabetic Mother.”

National Diabetes Education Program: “Did You Have Gestational Diabetes When You Were Pregnant?”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “What I Need to Know about Gestational Diabetes.”

Office on Women’s Health: “Diabetes.”

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Am I at Risk for Gestational Diabetes?"

Wien Klin Wochenschr: “Large-for-gestational-age newborns in women with insulin-treated gestational diabetes under strict metabolic control.”

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