Gestational diabetes can sometimes be attributed to hormone surges during pregnancy and therefore is not always an indicator of your pre-pregnancy health. That being said, women who eat healthy, exercise daily, and watch their glucose levels are often at a lower risk. Screening for gestational diabetes is routine for all pregnant women and is a simple way to make sure you and your baby are receiving the best care.
Gestational Diabetes Overview
Gestational diabetes is a specific type of diabetes that only applies to pregnant women. It’s a condition when blood sugar levels become high during pregnancy. It applies only to women who have never been previously diagnosed with diabetes. About 10% of women who are pregnant in the U.S. each year are affected by gestational diabetes.
Even though gestational diabetes typically resolves following birth, it may affect the future health of both you and your baby. If you’re diagnosed with gestational diabetes, both you and your baby are at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes later in life.
Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes
It can be difficult to differentiate symptoms of gestational diabetes from those of normal pregnancy. If you experience any of the following, you may have gestational diabetes:
- Blurred vision
- Thirstier than usual
- Hungrier than usual
- Frequent infections in the bladder, vagina, or skin
- Increased urge to urinate
If you think you may have gestational diabetes, talk to your medical provider. Your provider can go over all your symptoms and run tests.
Gestational Diabetes Causes
When you’re pregnant, your placenta produces hormones that cause glucose, or sugar, to build
up in your bloodstream. Normally, your pancreas releases insulin, which is a hormone that helps
regulate your blood sugar levels. Hormone changes during pregnancy can cause an imbalance in the system that leads to blood sugar dysregulation.
How to Prevent Gestational Diabetes
The best way to prevent gestational diabetes is to stay healthy. Some steps to get there are:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Follow a regular exercise plan
- Avoid excess weight gain
Be aware that even if you do these things, you can still receive a gestational diabetes diagnosis.
How to Treat Gestational Diabetes
Your gestational diabetes treatment and whether or not you will need medication, depends on the severity. You and your provider will come up with a plan to treat your gestational diabetes. Some possible treatments include:
- Lifestyle changes – one of the ways you can control gestational diabetes is by living a healthy lifestyle. Most providers don’t recommend losing weight during pregnancy. But if weight is a concern, you and your provider can set a weight gain goal for the duration of your pregnancy. Your provider will likely recommend staying active and having a healthy gestational diabetes diet.
- Diet – work with your provider to form a gestational diabetes diet. Focus on healthy carbohydrates to prevent blood sugar spikes. Eat at least two or three servings of protein each day and incorporate healthy fats into your diet.
- Exercise – exercising regularly can be an effective way to manage blood sugar levels. If you’re taking insulin, ask your provider about proper timing between insulin injections and exercise.
- Monitor your blood sugar – it’s common for providers to want to monitor your blood sugar at least four times a day. They may ask you to check it first thing in the morning, then after meals. Monitor your glucose levels to stay on top of your gestational diabetes.
- Take medication – some gestational diabetes can’t be controlled with diet and exercise alone. If it isn’t enough, your provider may recommend insulin injections to keep your blood sugar levels in check. About 10% to 20% of women with gestational diabetes need insulin.
Monitor Your Baby
Your provider will want to monitor your baby’s growth and development while you’re being treated. Your healthcare provider may recommend extra tests to check on your baby. If you have complications with gestational diabetes, your provider may induce labor before your due date.
How Will Gestational Diabetes Affect My Baby?
Most mothers with gestational diabetes give birth to healthy babies. If you and your provider can successfully manage your blood sugar, chances are good your baby will be healthy. Some babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are born larger than normal. They can also be born jaundice, although jaundice usually fades quickly right after birth. Your child will be
more prone to type 2 diabetes, but a healthy lifestyle can make that less likely.
Does Gestational Diabetes Go Away After Birth?
Gestational diabetes resolves itself after birth. Two out of three mothers with gestational diabetes go on to have gestational diabetes again in subsequent pregnancies. The good news is that you can decrease your chance of getting gestational diabetes with a healthy lifestyle.