What Is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes only happens during pregnancy. If you have it, you can still have a healthy baby, with help from your doctor and by doing simple things every day to manage your blood sugar.

After your baby is born, you may not have diabetes anymore. Gestational diabetes makes you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, but it won’t definitely happen.

Causes

During pregnancy, the placenta makes hormones that can lead to a buildup of sugar in your blood. Usually, your pancreas can make enough insulin to handle that. If not, your blood sugar levels will rise and can cause gestational diabetes.

Are You at Risk?

You are more likely to get gestational diabetes if:

  • You were overweight before you got pregnant.
  • You are African-American, Asian, Hispanic, or Native American.
  • Your blood sugar levels are high, but not high enough to be diabetes.
  • Diabetes runs in your family.
  • You’ve had gestational diabetes before.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will check to see if you have gestational diabetes ASAP if you’re likely to get it, or between weeks 24 and 28 of your pregnancy if you’re not at high risk.

To test for gestational diabetes, you will quickly drink a sugary drink. This will raise your blood sugar levels. An hour later, you’ll take a blood test to see how your body handled all that sugar. If the result shows that your blood sugar higher than a certain cut off (anywhere from 130 milligrams per deciliter [mg/dL] or higher), you will need additional testing. This will require testing your blood sugar while fasting and a longer glucose test that will be done over a three hour period.

If your results are normal but you have a high risk of getting gestational diabetes, you may need a follow-up test later in your pregnancy to make sure you still don’t have it.

Treatment

To treat your gestational diabetes, your doctor will ask you to:

  • Check your blood sugar levels four or more times a day.
  • Do urine tests that check for ketones, which mean that your diabetes is not under control
  • Eat a healthy diet that’s in line with your doctor’s recommendations
  • Make exercise a habit

Your doctor will track how much weight you gain and let you know if you need to take insulin or other medicine for your gestational diabetes.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on April 19, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

American Diabetes Association: "Gestational Diabetes."

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: "Gestational Diabetes: A Guide for Pregnant Women."

American College of Nurse Midwives: "Gestational Diabetes."

 

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