Gestational diabetes means potential complications for you and your baby. Fortunately, most women can manage their gestational diabetes through healthy eating and regular exercise.
Pregnancy is a time of many changes, some of them expected and some maybe less so. One lesser-known change can occur when your placenta produces hormones that interfere with the regular function of insulin in your body. Insulin moves blood sugar from your bloodstream into your cells for energy, and when it can't do that, blood sugar can build up in your bloodstream. For about 9 percent of American women, it can build up too much and lead to gestational diabetes.
When considering how to treat gestational diabetes, the first thing to understand is that it's not the same as type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that usually resolves after you give birth, though women who have had gestational diabetes may be at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most women who have gestational diabetes are able to easily manage it and deliver healthy babies. Women who have trouble maintaining their blood sugar levels may experience complications including greater birth weight, premature delivery, or the need for cesarean delivery (C-section). Rarely, gestational diabetes may increase the risk of preeclampsia, a serious condition characterized by high blood pressure.
Researchers don't yet understand why gestational diabetes develops in some women and not others. They have, however, determined factors that put a woman at a greater risk, including:
Gestational diabetes usually has few or no symptoms. For an accurate diagnosis, women usually undergo a glucose test between twenty-four and twenty-eight weeks, though women who are at higher risk may want to be tested earlier. The test simply determines whether or not your body is producing enough insulin to process glucose adequately.
If you're diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you'll want to start a treatment program right away to control your blood sugar levels and reduce your risk for complications. A treatment plan usually consists of the following steps:
Although your blood sugar levels will likely return to normal after your baby is born, you should still get a diabetes test six to twelve weeks after birth. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), if your postpartum test is normal, it's still a good idea to get tested for diabetes every three years. Additionally, they recommend that you continue to monitor your baby for risk factors and symptoms as they grow.
When properly diagnosed and treated, gestational diabetes is very manageable and typically results in a normal and healthy birth and baby. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor about options for testing and treatment.
By Joelle Klein
ACOG, FAQs: Gestational Diabetes
Medical News Today, Preeclampsia: Causes, symptoms, and treatment
American Diabetes Association, How to Treat Gestational Diabetes
National Institute of Health, Gestational Diabetes
Mayo Clinic, Gestational Diabetes
These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regime.