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The 411 on Gestational Diabetes

Diabetes is a health problem that results in too much sugar in the bloodstream and not enough in the body’s cells.  The problem occurs when the body is not able to make the insulin hormone (type 1 diabetes) or the insulin that is made doesn’t work very well (type 2 diabetes).  Gestational diabetes (GDM) is diabetes that develops during pregnancy.

Women with GDM have high levels of sugar in the blood which is transferred to the developing baby.  The baby turns this extra sugar into fat, mostly around his or her belly area.  This extra birth fat increases your baby’s chances of being born large for gestational age and also of having obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes later in life. In addition, the baby may have difficulty being born if he or she grows too big, and can have low blood sugar levels right after birth that require special care.

At Southdale ObGyn we screen all pregnant women for GDM between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy by checking a blood test.  Most women have some risk factors for GDM, but even some women with no obvious risk factors will develop GDM.  A few women have a higher risk of developing GDM in their pregnancy. This would include women who are overweight before pregnancy, who have had GDM during a prior pregnancy and women who have had a history of a large infant at birth.  Your provider will discuss the appropriate timing of GDM testing for you at your prenatal visits.

If you are diagnosed with GDM you will be asked to test your blood sugar levels at home. Most women with GDM are able to have normal blood sugar levels by eating healthy and increasing exercise.  You will also need to meet with a diabetes educator who will teach you how to check your blood sugar levels and help you learn about how to eat in ways that keep your blood sugar at normal levels.  A few women who have GDM will need to take a medication such as insulin to control their blood sugar levels if they aren’t well controlled by the dietary changes.

Women who have GDM in their pregnancy have a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.  Healthy eating and regular exercise are important to help prevent diabetes in the future.  Your provider will recommend appropriate blood sugar testing for you after your pregnancy and throughout your life.