Diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose, or sugar, in the blood. Some women develop diabetes for the first time during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is caused by a higher level of pregnancy hormones interfering with insulin.

Sometimes during pregnancy, women cannot make enough insulin, causing blood glucose levels to rise and leading to gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes does go away after childbirth, but women are at risk for developing diabetes later in life. Some women who develop gestational diabetes may have had mild diabetes before pregnancy and not have known it. All women are screened for gestational diabetes by their providers. For women with no risk factors, blood sugar is measured between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy. For women with risk factors, blood sugar levels are measured earlier.

Are there risk factors for gestational diabetes?

Yes, some common risk factors include:

  • Overweight or obesity
  • Physically inactive
  • Gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • A very large baby in a previous pregnancy
  • High blood pressure
  • History of heart disease
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome

How does gestational diabetes affect pregnancy?

Women with gestational diabetes often require special care both during and after pregnancy. Gestational diabetes can lead to a large fetus and further complications affecting the woman and the baby. These complications include:

  • Labor difficulties
  • Cesarean birth
  • Heavy bleeding during delivery
  • Severe tears in the vagina or area between the vagina and anus during vaginal birth
  • High blood pressure and preeclampsia
  • Infant difficulties with breathing and jaundice
  • Infant birth trauma due to increased weight
  • Childhood obesity and diabetes
  • Stillbirth

What is the management for gestational diabetes?

Women with gestational diabetes will need more frequent prenatal care visits. They will also need to track blood sugar levels to keep them under control. Tracking blood sugar levels involves using a glucose meter to measure blood sugar from a small drop of blood. Women can manage their blood sugar levels and keep them normal by:

  • Eating regular meals throughout the day to avoid dips and spikes in blood glucose levels
  • Exercise 5 days a week, such as walking
  • Some women may need to take medication, such as insulin injections. Insulin does not cross the placenta and affects the baby.

All information is provided by:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists