What is Gestational Diabetes?
When you’re pregnant, your body naturally becomes more resistant to insulin so that more glucose is available to nourish your baby. For most moms-to-be, this isn’t a problem. When the body needs additional insulin to process excess glucose in blood, the pancreas secretes more.
But if the pancreas can’t keep up with the increased demand for insulin during pregnancy, blood sugar levels rise too high because the cells aren’t using the glucose. This results in gestational diabetes.
Unlike other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes isn’t permanent. Once the baby is born, your blood sugar will most likely return to normal. However, having gestational diabetes does make developing diabetes in the future more likely.
Who Gets Gestational Diabetes?
About 4% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes about midway through their pregnancy. Doctors typically test for gestational diabetes between the 24th and 28th week of the pregnancy. Doctors test during this time because the placenta is producing a large amount of hormones that can cause insulin resistance. If the test results show higher levels, the doctor will test further before a diagnosis.
What are the Risk Factors?
While some insulin resistance is normal later in a pregnancy, this is sometimes enough to produce gestational diabetes for some women. Some of the factors that put you at a greater risk are:
- A history of gestational diabetes
- Having prediabetes
- A history of polycystic ovary syndrome
- A parent or sibling having type 2 diabetes
- A previous delivery of an infant with a birth weight of over 9 pounds
How Can I Be Treated?
The most crucial step in treatment for gestational diabetes is to maintain a proper diet. While exercise can help blood glucose levels get back to a normal level, most women are able to control their glucose by following a strict nutritional plan. It is also important to monitor your blood glucose levels at home during specific times, typically at least 4 times a day.
If diet and exercise aren’t working and you notice your glucose levels not improving, you should talk to your doctor about insulin therapy.
As long as your diet, exercise and blood glucose levels are maintained, the mother and baby should remain healthy and have no complications.