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Could I Get Gestational Diabetes?

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Some women get high blood sugar during pregnancy. This is called gestational diabetes. It affects only pregnant women who've never been diagnosed with another type of the disease.

Most doctors check for it between 24 and 28 weeks. But if you have any of the health problems that could lead to diabetes -- you’re overweight, have high blood pressure, or a family history of the disease -- talk to your doctor before you get pregnant. 

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High blood sugar during pregnancy can cause your baby to grow very large. That can lead to complications during delivery. The baby could be born with low blood sugar, yellowish skin and eyes (jaundice), breathing trouble, and other problems.

If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, though, your doctor will work with you to keep your blood sugar under control throughout your pregnancy.

Who Gets It?

If you answer yes to two or more of these questions, you could be more likely to get gestational diabetes:

  • Are you overweight?
  • Are you related to anyone who has or had diabetes?
  • Are you Hispanic/Latina, African-American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian American, or Pacific Islander?
  • Are you older than 25?
  • In a previous pregnancy, did you have any of the following:
    • Gestational diabetes
    • Stillbirth or miscarriage
    • Large baby (weighing more than 9 pounds)
  • Do you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or another health condition linked to problems with insulin?
  • Have you ever had problems with insulin or blood sugar, such as insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, or “prediabetes”?
  • Do you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease?

Getting Tested

If your doctor thinks you’re at risk, he’ll give you a "glucose challenge" test. You'll drink a really sweet beverage. One hour later, you'll get a blood sugar reading.

If the results come out higher than 130 to 140 mg/dL, you'll go back to the doctor's office on another day for a more involved process. This is called the 3-hour glucose tolerance test. You might have to follow some diet instructions, like fasting for 8 to 12 hours before you take the test.

The doctor will check your fasting blood sugar level when you get to his office. Then he'll give you a drink that's even sweeter than the one in the first test. You'll get blood sugar readings 1, 2, and 3 hours later. If two or more results are higher than 130 to 140 mg/dL, you’ll be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

If you have the condition, your doctor will tell you about healthy lifestyle changes you'll need to make -- these involve your diet and physical activity. You might also have to take medication.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD, FACOG on January 14, 2015
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