Did you know that seven out of every 100 pregnant women develop gestational diabetes? Like other forms of diabetes, gestational diabetes is the result of too much sugar (glucose) in your blood. This occurs when the hormones produced by the placenta cause insulin resistance, a condition in which your pancreas is unable to produce enough of the hormone insulin – or use it properly – to regulate the amount of sugar in your blood. However, gestational diabetes is temporary. It typically develops during the last trimester of pregnancy and goes away once the baby is born.

Gestational Diabetes Risks

  • Are older than 25
  • Are overweight or have gained a lot of weight during their pregnancy
  • Have a family history of diabetes
  • Are African American, Native American, Asian, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander
  • Had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • Had a baby in a past pregnancy who weighed more than nine pounds or was stillborn

The good news is that gestational diabetes can be controlled and treated. It’s important for the health of both mother and baby to manage blood sugar levels and keep them in a safe range. If not treated properly, gestational diabetes can cause problems, such as:

  • Preeclampsia, a condition in which a pregnant woman has high blood pressure and dysfunctional kidneys and liver. Symptoms include protein in the urine, altered vision, and severe headaches.
  • Premature birth, which is delivery before 37 weeks of pregnancy. A premature baby is more likely to have health problems during and after birth than full-term baby.
  • Birth of a large baby (more than nine pounds), which may require a cesarean section (C-section) delivery. Also, a large baby is more likely to experience obesity or have diabetes later in life.
  • Stillbirth: The death of a baby in the uterus after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Infant health complications such as breathing problems, low blood sugar, and jaundice

Diagnosing Pregnancy Diabetes

Pregnant women can be diagnosed with this condition through an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) conducted at 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. This test is typically conducted at the obstetrician’s office.

To prepare for the test, you will need to fast overnight. The next morning, your doctor will check your fasting blood glucose level. You will then drink 8 ounces of a sugary solution and your blood glucose will be measured again after one hour.

If your blood sugar is greater than 140 mg/dL but less than 190 mg/dL, your doctor will likely recommend a 3-hour OGTT. If your blood sugar is higher than 190 mg/dL after the one-hour test, you’ll be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

Treatment for the condition includes more frequent prenatal care checkups, checking your blood sugar regularly, taking insulin shots, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly.

For most women, gestational diabetes goes away after they’ve given birth. However, they are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

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Board certified in endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism, Dr. Alexander Lurie grew up in Chicago and attended Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he graduated cum laude with a major in physics.

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