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Gestational Diabetes

If your blood sugar level is too high when you are pregnant, you have gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born and affects about 4% of pregnancies in the U.S.

High blood sugar can cause problems for you and your baby. With gestational diabetes, your baby may grow too large, which can cause problems during delivery. Your baby may also be born with low blood sugar. But with treatment, most women with gestational diabetes are able to control their blood sugar and give birth to healthy babies.

Women who have had gestational diabetes are more likely than other women to develop type 2 diabetes later on. You may be able to prevent type 2 diabetes if you stay at a healthy weight, eat healthy foods, and exercise.

Causes of Gestational Diabetes

The pancreas makes a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps your body properly use and store the sugar from the food you eat. This keeps your blood sugar level in a safe range. When you are pregnant, your body makes other hormones that can make it harder for insulin to work. This deterioration of insulin's actions is normal in pregnancy, but tends to get worse during the third trimester.

A pregnant woman can get diabetes when her pancreas cannot make enough insulin to keep her blood sugar levels within a safe range.

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

Many women are surprised to learn they have gestational diabetes, because they do not have symptoms.

If you do have symptoms of gestational diabetes, they can include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Blurred vision

Having these symptoms does not always mean that you have gestational diabetes, but it is important to get tested, because high blood sugar can cause problems for both you and your baby.

Diagnosing Gestational Diabetes

All women should be tested for gestational diabetes between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy. If your doctor thinks you are more likely to get gestational diabetes, you may be tested earlier. Women at a high risk for developing gestational diabetes include those who are obese, have a history of gestational diabetes, have sugar in their urine, or have a strong family history of diabetes. If they have an initial evaluation that shows no detectable elevated sugar, a later test (at 24-28 weeks) may be ordered to reassess.

Gestational diabetes is diagnosed with two blood tests. In the first test, your blood sugar level is tested one hour after you drink a small cup of a sweet liquid. If your blood sugar is too high, you will need to do a longer, three-hour glucose test. If your blood sugar is still above a certain level, you have gestational diabetes.

Treatment for Gestational Diabetes

Many women with gestational diabetes can control their blood sugar level by changing the way they eat and by exercising regularly. These healthy choices can also help prevent gestational diabetes in future pregnancies and type 2 diabetes later in life.

Treatment for gestational diabetes also includes checking your blood sugar level at home and seeing your doctor regularly.

You may need to give yourself insulin shots to help control your blood sugar. This man-made insulin adds to the insulin that your body makes.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by John A. Seibel, MD on July 17, 2012

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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