Gestational diabetes is a form of the disease that occurs in women who are pregnant and never had diabetes before. You might be shocked to learn that the American Diabetes Association estimates that roughly one out of five pregnancies is affected by gestational diabetes. While there is no proven reason why a woman would develop gestational diabetes, scientists believes it has to do with the hormonal changes that aid the baby’s development. These hormone changes make it more difficult for the body to produce insulin.
Doctors will normally test for this around the 24th week of pregnancy with a simple glucose screening test. This tests how your body processes sugar by measuring your blood sugars before and after you ingest a very sweet, sugar filled liquid. If your blood sugars are abnormally high, the doctor will perform another test to confirm that you have diabetes. More often than not, the second test will come back negative. Those that are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes should be tested sooner. Risk factors include being overweight, previously giving birth to a baby over 9 pounds, and having a family history of diabetes. WebMD has a more complete list of risk factors associated with gestational diabetes.
Luckily for you, managing the disease is not overly difficult. Your doctor will have you work with a dietitian to find a diet that helps keep your blood sugar at a normal level while insuring your baby gets all of the nutrients he or she needs. Your doctor might also start you on insulin to help manage your blood sugar levels. Thankfully, as long as you keep your blood sugar at a normal level, you don’t need to worry about any harm to your baby. In general, mothers with gestational diabetes tend to give birth to larger babies. If you leave blood sugar levels unmanaged, the baby might suffer health defects.
After birth, most women reverse their diabetes and are able to manage their blood sugar levels without insulin within a few months. However, one out of three will continue to struggle for an extended period of time. Losing weight significantly increases the likelihood that the disease will be reversed. However, the long term outlook for developing type two is higher when you have diabetes during pregnancy. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that promotes a nutritious diet and exercise plan will minimize the chances of developing diabetes later in life.
This only scratches the surface on the topic of gestational diabetes. Our diabetes guide has a lot more information on how to detect and manage diabetes should you develop it during pregnancy. Just remember that if you do develop the disease, you don’t need to worry. Doctors will help make sure that you and your baby have a healthy pregnancy!