What Is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes happens when your blood sugar is too high during your pregnancy. Blood sugars will usually return to normal after the baby is born. Gestational diabetes occurs in about 7% of all pregnancies.
Most women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes do not have noticeable signs or symptoms. For the women who do have symptoms, you may notice the following:
- Increased frequency of urination (typically in large amounts, differing from the frequent but light amounts of urination during pregnancy)
- Unusual or excessive thirst
- Sugar in the urine (can be tested at routine doctor appointment)
Research has not determined why some women get gestational diabetes, while other women don’t. There has been some correlation to excess weight prior to pregnancy being a contributing factor. What is known is that pregnancy causes major hormone fluctuations in the body, which can impact insulin.
Insulin is used to convert sugar into energy, and sometimes pregnancy hormones can prevent insulin from working properly, resulting in the development of gestational diabetes.
Who Gets Gestational Diabetes?
Anyone can get gestational diabetes but certain women are at a higher risk:
- Previous history of gestational diabetes
- Family history of diabetes
- Being overweight
- Giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 lbs.
- Previous stillbirth
- History of glucose in the urine
- Women over 25
- Women from ethnic groups with a higher incidence of Type 2 diabetes (African-American, Hispanic-American, Native-American, Asian-American)
How Do I Know if I Have Gestational Diabetes?
Most women will be screened for gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of their pregnancy. This test requires that you drink a sugary drink containing 75-100 grams of glucose. Blood tests are performed before you have the drink and at 1, 2, and 3 hours after you have the drink. The initial test will be fasting, meaning that you should not eat or drink anything for at least 6 hours before the test is performed.
Glucose tolerance diagnostic test (for gestational diabetes)
100 grams of glucose
Less than 95 mg/dL
Less than 180 mg/dL
Less than 155 mg/dL
Less than 140 mg/dL
Although research has not determined why some women develop gestational diabetes while others do not, research has determined risk factors. Risk factors include:
- Overweight or obesity. One of the most common risk factors is having a BMI of 30 or higher. The excess weight makes it difficult for insulin to regulate sugar.
- Higher level of abdominal fat. Studies have shown that having excess abdominal fat during the first trimester can increase the risk of developing gestational diabetes.
- Age. Research indicates that women ages 25-30 have a greater risk of developing gestational diabetes, with that risk increasing as you age.
- Family history of diabetes. Specifically, if anyone in your immediate family has diabetes, you are at a greater risk of developing gestational diabetes.
- History of recurrent miscarriage.
- Race. Women who are black, Hispanic, Asian American, or American Indian are at greater risk.
- Personal history with GDM, diabetes, or pre-diabetes.
- Previous birth where baby weighed 9lbs or more, or there was a birth defect.
- Put on bed rest or lack of physical activity. A lack of activity or movement has been associated with the development of gestational diabetes.
- Medical condition associated with development of diabetes. This may include polycystic ovary syndrome, cardiovascular disease, or hypertension.
- Pregnant with multiples.
Gestational Diabetes can Increase Your Risk for:
- Type 2 diabetes (after the delivery)
- High blood pressure
- Early labor
- Caesarean section
Managing your blood sugars can reduce the risks for you and your baby.
If you are diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, your obstetrician will refer you to see a diabetes educator at Baptist Health. The nurse educator will teach you how to manage your gestational diabetes.
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