Understanding Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes, or pregnancy related diabetes, is different from being pregnant while you are a diabetic. This diagnosis is for women who do not have diabetes, but have trouble producing enough insulin for herself and the baby during pregnancy.

Even women who have never had trouble with their blood sugar in the past may get gestational diabetes during their pregnancy. Failure to treat and maintain blood sugar during pregnancy can affect the baby’s health, so it’s important to know what’s ahead if you find yourself with a gestational diabetes diagnosis.

Risk Factors for Gestational Diabetes

Though we don’t know why some women get it and others don’t, we do have some indicators that suggest you may be at risk for gestational diabetes:

  • A family history of type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes. If someone in your family has type 2 diabetes, you are at greater risk of developing gestational diabetes. Also, if your grandmother, sister, or mother had gestational diabetes, you are at a higher risk of developing it too.

  • Prior history. If you had gestational diabetes in an earlier pregnancy, you are more likely to have it during subsequent pregnancies

  • Prediabetes. Some people have high blood sugar, but it’s not high enough for them to be considered diabetic. If your doctor has told you that you are pre-diabetic or have elevated blood sugar, you may be at a higher risk for gestational diabetes.

  • Weight Issues. If you struggle with maintaining a healthy weight or gained more weight than expected during your pregnancy, it raises the risk of gestational diabetes.

  • Age and Ethnicity. Women who are older than 25, are of Native American, Hispanic, or African descent are all in a higher-risk category for development of gestational diabetes.

It’s important to remember, however, that this isn’t an inclusive list. Even if you check all the boxes on this list, you may not develop gestational diabetes. If you don’t check any of these boxes, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible for gestational diabetes to develop during your pregnancy. That’s why testing is crucial.

What to Expect From a Gestational Diabetes Test

If you are a high risk for gestational diabetes, we may test you early, but, for most expectant mothers, we screen for this issue between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. At this time, you’ll be given a syrupy drink (it’s a glucose solution), and an hour later, you’ll have a blood test.

If your blood tests high, you still may not have gestational diabetes, but you are at a greater risk of having it. When this happens, you need further blood testing to see how your body responds to sugar.

The follow up test takes more time, but it’s an important step. For it, you must fast overnight and have your blood sugar checked in the morning. Then, you’ll need to drink the solution again, but this one will have more glucose (sugar).

At this point, your blood will be measured every hour for the next three hours. The diagnosis of gestational diabetes will depend on your body’s response to the glucose solution.

What to Do If You Have Gestational Diabetes

If you do have gestational diabetes, your pregnancy care may change, but you don’t have to become overly worried. We will recommend a diabetic diet to stabilize your body’s response to the insulin resistance. A dietician is your first line of defense in this situation, as he or she can explain how to eat in a way that prevents spikes in blood sugar levels.

Gentle exercise can also be crucial in helping your blood sugar levels stay under control. In some cases, however, diet and exercise aren’t enough to control your body’s diabetic response. In this instance, you may need to take insulin. We will monitor your blood sugar throughout this stage of your pregnancy to protect you and your baby.

If you have any questions regarding gestational diabetes or how diet can affect your pregnancy, talk to your doctor during your next visit. Together, we help ensure your pregnancy is healthy and stress-free.

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