Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. It affects around 2-10% of all pregnancies and is caused by hormonal changes and increased insulin resistance that occur during pregnancy. Pregnancy increases the body’s need for insulin, but the body cannot always make enough.
Risk factors for gestational diabetes include being overweight or obese, having a family history of diabetes, advanced maternal age, IVF pregnancy, and having previously had gestational diabetes or a large baby. Women who have PCOS or insulin resistance and those of certain ethnicities, such as African American, Hispanic, and Native American, are also at a higher risk. Regardless of your risk status, all pregnant people are tested for gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes screening is typically completed around 28 weeks of pregnancy through a test called a 1-hour glucose challenge. Most people should be tested when they are about 6 or 7 months pregnant. (That’s the same as 24 to 28 weeks pregnant.) But people at high risk for diabetes might need to be tested earlier in pregnancy.
There are a few ways to test for gestational diabetes. A common way is to have you drink a special, sweet drink called “glucola.” Then, an hour later, the lab technician will take some blood. This is a way for your doctor to see how high your blood sugar gets after you eat sugar. If your 1-hour glucose level is normal, then you are done. If it is high, then you will need to do another test. For this test, blood is taken before you have anything to eat or drink in the morning, also known as fasting. Then you drink a different special, sweet drink, and the lab technician will take some blood 1, 2, and 3 hours later.
If gestational diabetes is not properly managed, it can lead to serious complications for both the mother and the baby. These complications include high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and an increased risk of having a large baby. The baby may also be at a higher risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.
Gestational diabetes is typically managed through a combination of diet and exercise. Women with gestational diabetes are usually advised to eat a healthy, balanced diet that is low in sugar and refined carbohydrates. They also need to monitor their blood sugar levels and take medication if it cannot be managed through diet and exercise alone. If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you will receive a referral to a nutritionist for diabetes education classes for pregnant women.
Regular physical activity is also important for managing gestational diabetes. Exercise can help to lower blood sugar levels and improve overall health. Pregnant women with gestational diabetes should talk to their healthcare provider about what types of exercise are safe for them.
In conclusion, gestational diabetes is a serious condition that can occur during pregnancy. It is important for pregnant women to be tested for gestational diabetes and to work closely with their healthcare provider to manage it. With proper management, the risks to both the mother and the baby can be minimized. It’s important for pregnant women to be aware of their risk factors and take steps to reduce their risk. At Northside/Northpoint OB-GYN our providers are skilled in screening patients for diabetes and managing pregnant persons with gestational diabetes.