Gestational Diabetes

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is when a pregnant woman who has never had diabetes tests positive for high blood sugar (glucose) levels. Gestational diabetes affects about 4% of all pregnant women and it is estimated that there are about 135, 000 women who suffer from gestational diabetes per year. It is typically developed during late pregnancy around the 24th to the 28th week and after the baby’s fully formed but still growing larger. Many doctors will typically run a glucose tolerance test around week 24 of pregnancy to determine if the mother has a higher risk for gestational diabetes.


It has been suggested that placenta, which supports growth of the baby, may produce hormones that cause insulin resistance within the mother’s body. Insulin is requires for the body’s ability to remove glucose from the blood and turn it into energy. Glucose, therefore, builds up in the blood and the mother suffers from hyperglycemia.

Complications if Left Untreated

Gestational diabetes is treatable, but when left untreated it can cause harm to the fetus and the mother. While insulin does not cross the placenta, glucose and other nutrients do go to the fetus. The high glucose levels that cross over force the baby’s pancreas to make extra insulin to remove the blood glucose from its body. The baby ends up with extra energy that its body stores as fat. This means that a women with untreated gestational diabetes faces having a fat baby, also known as macrosomia. For Mother’s untreated gestational diabetes can mean having to have a c-section or going through a very difficult delivery.

Macrosomia baby’s health problems vary. Some may be born with damage to their shoulders because of the difficulty of giving birth to a baby that weighs much more than normal. Others may be born with low blood glucose levels because of the baby’s increased production of insulin which increases the risk of breathing problems. Moreover, baby’s born with excess insulin can suffer from obesity later in life and be at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes Treatment

Treatment for gestational diabetes can vary depending on the severity. Some women only require special meal plans, increased physical activity, and more frequent doctor’s visits. Women with more severe gestational diabetes, however, can require daily blood glucose testing and insulin injections.

Typically gestational diabetes goes shortly after the baby is born. A test will be conducted on the mother a few weeks after the baby is born to make sure that the gestational diabetes has resolved itself. Some women, however, actually discover that they have Type 1 or 2 diabetes while they are pregnant and require treatment even after the birth of the baby. Women who develop gestational diabetes during one of their pregnancies are much more likely to develop it again during subsequent pregnancies.

Avoiding Sweets and Sugars

As a general rule those worried about gestational diabetes should avoid eating foods that are high in simple sugars (cookies, ice cream, doughnuts, candy, and cake) and instead opt for foods that contain natural sugars such as fruit. Whole grain breads should be substituted for white breads. Snacking foods should consist of things like carrots, raisins, and celery.

Exercise Can Help

Some doctor’s also suggest increasing exercise. This can mean exercising for about 5 or 30 minutes every day. Women who exercise need to, however, be cautious that their pulse does not get to high. Pregnant women need to discuss what types of exercises are apporiate. A pregnant women who gets dizzy, has back pain, other pain should stop all exercise and contact their doctor immediately. A pregnant women who has labor pains or uterine contractions, bleeding, or has their water break should call their doctor right away.

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