Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. Between 3 – 20% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes, depending on their risk factors.
In most cases women with gestational diabetes did not have diabetes before their pregnancy; however after giving birth, the diabetes usually goes away.
Screening & diagnosing gestational diabetes
Gestational diabetes is usually diagnosed through a blood test 24–28 weeks into pregnancy. Women who are at high risk for type 2 diabetes should be screened at less than 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The good news is that getting screened for gestational diabetes and keeping your blood sugar level in control means you can expect to have a happy, healthy baby.
Understanding gestational diabetes
During gestational diabetes your body cannot produce enough insulin to handle the effects of a growing baby and changing hormone levels.
Insulin is a hormone in your body that helps your body to control the level of glucose (sugar) in your blood. If your body cannot produce enough insulin, the amount of sugar in your blood will rise.
High blood sugar levels during pregnancy could result in problems for you and your baby:
- preeclampsia (high blood pressure that occurs during pregnancy)
- abnormal sugar level in baby
- the baby could grow too large, increasing the need of a caesarean section
- possible birth injury due to the baby's size and difficulties during delivery
As a result, you may both have a higher risk of health problems later in life such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
You can reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes by managing your weight, eating healthily and keeping active before and during pregnancy.
Living with gestational diabetes
Many women with gestational diabetes are able to control their blood sugar levels with lifestyle changes, including diet and physical activity; however, some women will need to inject insulin for better control.
Ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietitian to learn about healthy eating during pregnancy. Physical activity during pregnancy can also help control your blood sugar level.
Sometimes healthy eating and physical activity are not enough to manage blood sugar levels. In this case, your health-care provider may recommend insulin injections or pills for the duration of your pregnancy. Medication will help keep your blood sugar level within your target range.
Your health-care team will teach you how to check your blood sugar with a blood glucose meter to better track and manage your gestational diabetes. This will help to keep you and your baby in good health.
Get the support you need
Your health-care team can answer your questions and support you through this important time in your life. Your team may include your doctor, nurse and dietitian, but remember: the most important member of your health-care team is you!