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Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar that is first diagnosed during pregnancy. High blood sugar can cause problems for you and your baby. With treatment and lifestyle changes, you can manage your blood sugar and have a healthy baby. Blood sugar levels often go back to normal after you give birth.
Insulin is a hormone that helps your body use and store sugar. During pregnancy, the placenta makes other hormones that make it hard for insulin to control blood sugar. Gestational diabetes develops when your body can't make enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels in a safe range.
Gestational diabetes may not cause symptoms, so you need to be tested for it. You may have symptoms such as being very thirsty or having blurred vision.
The oral glucose tolerance test is used to diagnose the condition. You may get this screening test for gestational diabetes between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy.
Managing your blood sugar is the key to preventing problems during pregnancy, birth, and after your baby is born. You may be able to manage your blood sugar with a healthy diet and regular exercise. You may also need to take diabetes medicine or give yourself insulin shots.
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Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas. It helps your body use and store the sugar from the food you eat. This keeps your blood sugar level in a safe range.
During pregnancy, the placenta makes several other hormones. Some of these hormones make it hard for insulin to do its job. So your body needs to make more insulin. Gestational diabetes develops when your body can't make enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels in a safe range.
You are more likely to have gestational diabetes if you:
Sometimes gestational diabetes can't be prevented. But you may lower your risk if you stay at a healthy weight and don't gain too much weight during pregnancy. Healthy eating and regular exercise can also help keep your blood sugar level in a safe range. This can help prevent gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes may not cause symptoms, so you need to be tested for it.
You could have another type of diabetes without knowing it. Common symptoms of high blood sugar include:
It's common to urinate more often and feel more hungry during pregnancy. So having these symptoms doesn't always mean that you have gestational diabetes. But if you have these symptoms at any time during pregnancy, talk with your doctor. Your doctor can help you get tested for diabetes.
Even if you have gestational diabetes, you can give birth to a healthy baby. But sometimes high blood sugar causes problems during pregnancy, birth, or after your baby is born. For example:
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if:
Call a doctor now if:
Check with your doctor if:
The oral glucose tolerance test is used to diagnose the condition.
You may be tested for gestational diabetes between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy. There are two testing methods.
The first method is done in two steps.
The second method uses a one-step method that is a version of the OGTT. If it shows that you have a lot of sugar in your blood, you may have gestational diabetes.
Your doctor will check your blood pressure at every visit. You'll also have tests throughout your pregnancy to check your baby's health. These include:
Your doctor may recommend having a hemoglobin A1c or similar test every month during your pregnancy. The A1c test estimates your average blood sugar level over the previous 2 to 3 months.
You and your doctor will talk about how often to check your blood sugar at home. This helps you know if your blood sugar level is in your target range.
You and your baby will be watched closely during labor and delivery. You'll have blood tests to make sure your blood sugar level is in a safe range. Fetal heart monitoring will be done to see how your baby is doing during labor.
You and your baby will be watched closely after delivery.
You will have a follow-up glucose tolerance test 4 to 12 weeks after your baby is born.
Managing your blood sugar is the key to preventing problems during pregnancy, birth, and after your baby is born.
You may be able to do this with healthy eating and regular exercise. Keeping up with these healthy habits can help prevent gestational diabetes in a future pregnancy. It can also help prevent type 2 diabetes later in life.
You may need to check your blood sugar at home to see if it's staying in your target range. If it isn't, you may need to take diabetes medicine or give yourself insulin shots.
You'll have regular checkups with your doctor. The doctor will do tests to see how you and your baby are doing. You and your baby will be watched closely during labor and after delivery.
These steps can help you keep your blood sugar in your target range and have a healthy pregnancy. They can also help you prevent diabetes after the birth.
Eat plenty of lean protein, fruits, and vegetables. Follow your meal plan to know how much carbohydrate you need for meals and snacks.
Try low-impact activities, such as walking and swimming. Try to be active 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week.footnote 1
If you're increasing your activity, talk to your doctor before you start.
Ask your doctor how often to test your blood sugar.
Your doctor will do tests to check on you and your baby. You'll talk about your blood sugar levels, eating and staying active, and how to manage pregnancy weight gain.
This helps control your blood sugar if it can't be managed with healthy eating and regular exercise. Blood sugar can be harder to manage as you approach your due date.
Diabetes medicine, such as insulin or pills, can help keep your blood sugar level in your target range. If you need to take insulin, you'll learn how to give yourself an insulin shot.
How much insulin you need depends on how much you weigh and how close you are to your due date. You may need more insulin as you get closer to your delivery date. That's because over time the placenta makes more and more hormones. This makes it harder and harder for insulin to do its job.
You may not have low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) when you have gestational diabetes. But you are at risk for low blood sugar if you take insulin shots or some diabetes medicines. Low blood sugar may happen if you:
CitationsAmerican Diabetes Association (2023). Management of diabetes in pregnancy: Standards of care in diabetes—2023. Diabetes Care, 46(Suppl 1): S254–S266. DOI: 10.2337/dc23-S015. Accessed February 23, 2023.
Current as of: October 2, 2023
Author: Healthwise StaffClinical Review BoardAll Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
Current as of: October 2, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review BoardAll Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
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