Some women have elevated blood sugar levels during pregnancy and experience no symptoms. This condition, known as gestational diabetes, can cause problems for you and your baby. However, you can manage it with healthy choices and medication, if necessary. Most women are screened for gestational diabetes between weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy.
What are the risks of gestational diabetes?
Your baby may grow too large, which can cause complications during delivery. Your baby may also be born with low blood sugar. Fortunately, most women who have gestational diabetes are able to control their blood sugar and give birth to healthy babies.
Women who have had gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. You may be able to prevent or reduce the severity of type 2 diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight, eating nutritious foods and increasing your physical activity. The good news is that blood sugar levels usually return to normal after the baby is born.
What causes gestational diabetes?
The pancreas makes a hormone called insulin, which helps your body properly use and store sugar. This process keeps your blood sugar level within a target range. During pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones that can make it harder for insulin to do its job, a condition called insulin resistance.
A pregnant woman may get diabetes if her pancreas cannot make enough insulin to keep her blood sugar levels within a healthy range.
What are the symptoms?
Because gestational diabetes may not cause symptoms, it’s important to get tested.
Sometimes a pregnant woman who has symptoms has been living with another type of diabetes without knowing it. Symptoms from another type of diabetes may include:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Increased hunger
- Blurred vision
Pregnancy causes most women to urinate more frequently and to feel hungrier, so those symptoms aren’t necessarily related to diabetes. Talk with your doctor if you want to be tested for diabetes at any time during pregnancy.
How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?
The oral glucose tolerance test is used to diagnose the condition. After fasting overnight, you’ll drink a sweet, glucose solution. Your blood sugar level will be checked every hour for three hours. Gestational diabetes is confirmed by two or three higher-than-normal readings.
How is it treated?
Some women with gestational diabetes can control their blood sugar level by changing their diet and exercising regularly. These healthy choices can also help prevent gestational diabetes in future pregnancies and type 2 diabetes.
Treating gestational diabetes also includes checking blood sugar at home and seeing a doctor regularly. Some women may need to take diabetes medicine or insulin shots to help control blood sugar. This insulin supplements insulin the body produces.