Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes occurs when high levels of sugar are present in the blood during a woman’s pregnancy. It is usually diagnosed between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. In the vast majority of cases it disappears after the baby is born but women who develop this will have to be monitored because their risk for developing type 2 diabetes increases.

Why does Gestational Diabetes develop?

Gestational diabetes develops because of hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. During pregnancy, the body produces hormones (chemicals) that work against insulin; this means that more insulin is needed to keep the blood sugar levels normal. Additionally, the growth demands of the foetus or developing baby increases the mother’s need for insulin. If not enough insulin is produced by the mother, blood sugar level rises and diabetes develops.

Gestational diabetes is more common in women who are overweight but may develop in other situations. These include:

  • Gestational Diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • A large baby in a previous pregnancy (over 4.5 kg or 10 lbs)
  • An unexplained stillbirth
  • Being over 25 to 30 years old
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Previous difficult pregnancy and/or delivery

How does Gestational diabetes affect your baby?

Gestational diabetes can hurt your baby if it is left untreated or poorly controlled. The high blood sugar levels in the mother’s blood stream can be passed to the baby through the placenta which will cause the baby to also have high blood sugar levels in its bloodstream. This will stimulate the baby’s pancreas to make extra insulin. The baby will get more energy than it needs to grow and develop, which will be stored as fat, leading the baby to grow very large. A large baby makes delivery more difficult and even more importantly the baby will likely face health problems then and in the future.

How do I treat Gestational Diabetes?

 The key is to act quickly. As treatable as it is, gestational diabetes can hurt you and your baby.

Treatment aims to keep your blood sugar levels normal. It can include special meal plans and regular physical activity. It can also include daily blood sugar testing and insulin injections.

We suggest the following target for women testing blood sugar levels during pregnancy:

  • Before a meal– 95 mg/dl or less
  • One hour after a meal–140 mg/dl or less
  • Two hours after a meal–120 mg/dl or less

Always remember that this is treatable—and working with your health care team can help ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Since gestational diabetes can hurt the mother and the baby if left untreated or poorly controlled, it is necessary for you to start your treatment quickly. Treatment for gestational diabetes aims to keep blood sugar levels equal to those of pregnant women who don’t have the condition. Treatment for gestational diabetes always includes:

  • Special meal plans.
  • Scheduled physical activity according to your health care recommendation.
  • Checking your blood sugar and urines ketones at home.
  • Working with your diabetes team.
  • Sometimes, daily insulin injections.

The suggested target for women testing blood sugar levels during pregnancy are:

  • Before a meal– 95 mg/dl or less
  • One hour after a meal–140 mg/dl or less
  • Two hours after a meal–120 mg/dl or less

Adhering with the treatment will lead to healthy pregnancy and birth.

How do I reduce my risk of developing diabetes after pregnancy?

If you had gestational diabetes then you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes; however, you can reduce the risk by:

  • Managing your weight;
  • Staying physically active and;
  • Having a regular check up and screening for diabetes.