When preparing to have a baby, there may be health concerns that come up throughout your pregnancy. One of these health concerns could be gestational diabetes, which affects 18 percent of expecting mothers. Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that causes high blood sugar (glucose) and is usually diagnosed about halfway through the pregnancy.
When food is digested, most of it changes into glucose (or sugar) in the blood. Glucose is a much needed fuel for the cells in your body. In order for the glucose to leave the blood and enter the body’s cells it needs the hormone insulin, which is produced in the pancreas. Pregnancy hormones can block the insulin from doing its job. Pregnant women may need up to three times as much insulin while their baby is growing and sometimes the pancreas cannot keep up with the demand. Glucose then builds up to a high level which is also called hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and that’s when gestational diabetes starts.
All pregnant women should receive an oral glucose tolerance test between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy to screen for the condition. Women who are at risk may be screened earlier in the pregnancy.
You are at greater risk for gestational diabetes if you:
- Are older than 25 when you are pregnant
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Gave birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds or had a birth defect
- Have high blood pressure
- Have too much amniotic fluid
- Have had an unexplained miscarriage or stillborn
- Were overweight before your pregnancy
Affects on the baby
Most women with gestational diabetes are able to control their blood sugar with no harm to their baby. However, untreated or poorly controlled gestational diabetes may have possible consequences to the health of your child. This can increase the chance of problems at the time of delivery, including:
- Birth injury (trauma) because of the baby’s large size
- Delivery by c-section
The goals of treatment are to keep blood sugar levels within a normal range during pregnancy. The most common way to check blood sugar levels is to use a glucometer, or glucose meter. Your healthcare provider should closely check both you and your baby throughout the pregnancy which includes fetal monitoring and often includes ultrasound and nonstress tests. If you are concerned about gestational diabetes, speak with your healthcare provider right away.