Gestational Diabetes: What You Need to Know

Gestational Diabetes: What You Need to Know

pregnant woman

For years, doctors believed that gestational diabetes affected three to five percent of all pregnancies, but new, more rigorous diagnostic criteria puts the number closer to 18 percent. This condition, which can strike any pregnant woman, usually develops in the second trimester, between weeks 24 and 28, and typically resolves after baby is born.


If gestational diabetes is treated and well-managed throughout your pregnancy, there’s no reason you can’t deliver a very healthy baby. But gestational diabetes that goes untreated, or isn’t carefully monitored, can be harmful for both, mother and baby. Consult our guide for risk factors, signs of gestational diabetes, and treatment options.



What is gestational diabetes?

Young pregnant woman performing a gestational diabetes self-test to control sugar. Positive blood test result


Gestational diabetes or diabetes that is diagnosed during pregnancy in a woman who previously did not have diabetes, occurs when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar efficiently. A hormone produced by the placenta makes a woman essentially resistant to her own insulin.



How does gestational diabetes differ from type 1 or 2 diabetes?

Gestational diabetes affects only pregnant women. People who have type 1 diabetes, sometimes referred to as juvenile diabetes, are generally born with it. Type 2 diabetes accounts for the majority of all cases, and occurs in adulthood, triggered by lifestyle factors such as obesity and lack of physical activity.



What causes it?

Asian pregnant woman eat donuts


It’s unclear why some women develop gestational diabetes while others do not. Doctors theorize that genetic predisposition, environmental issues (such as obesity prior to pregnancy), and/or behavioral factors (such as diet and exercise habits) may contribute.



Are you at risk?

Although the condition can strike any pregnant woman, there are several factors that could increase your chances of developing it. Risk factors include:

  • Age greater than 25
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Obesity prior to pregnancy
  • History of birthing big babies (over 9 pounds)
  • High blood pressure
  • Excess amniotic fluid (called polyhydramnios)
  • History of unexplained miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Personal history of gestational diabetes



Once you’ve had it, how likely are you to get it again?

Woman strengthens with dumbbell after childbirth


If you’ve had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, you have a 60 percent chance of developing it again. Additionally, half of all women with a history of gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years of the onset of their gestational diabetes, so it’s important to maintain good exercise and nutritional habits after your baby is born.



What are the signs of gestational diabetes?

Many women with gestational diabetes have either no symptoms or very mild symptoms. Possible symptoms include fatigue, excessive thirst, blurred vision, frequent urination, weight loss despite an increased appetite, nausea, and vomiting.



How is it diagnosed?

Female Obstetrician doctor measuring blood sugar of the pregnant woman on colorful background. Concept of gestational diabetes in a pregnant girl

Around 20 weeks, pregnant women are given a gestational diabetes test in the form of a standard glucose screening that consists of swallowing a concentrated glucose substance and having blood sugar levels tested one hour later. If elevated blood sugar levels are detected, a more thorough glucose tolerance test will be given, which involves an overnight fast, drinking another glucose beverage, and more blood work.


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