Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that some women get during pregnancy.

You treat it by making certain eating changes, exercising, checking blood sugar levels, and possibly taking diabetes medicine or insulin shots. With treatment, most women who have gestational diabetes will have healthy babies.

Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born.


What are the symptoms of gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes may not cause symptoms, so you need to be tested for it.

Sometimes a pregnant woman has been living with another type of diabetes without knowing it. Common symptoms of high blood sugar include:

  • Feeling very thirsty.
  • Urinating more often than usual.
  • Feeling very hungry.
  • Having blurred vision.

Most pregnant women urinate more often and feel more hungry. So having these symptoms doesn't always mean that a woman has diabetes. But if you have these symptoms at any time during pregnancy, talk with your doctor so that you can be tested for diabetes.


What causes gestational diabetes?

Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas. Insulin helps your body use and store the sugar from the food you eat. This keeps your blood sugar level in a safe range.

During pregnancy, the placenta makes several other hormones. Some of these hormones make it hard for insulin to do its job. The mother's body needs to make more insulin to control sugar levels. Gestational diabetes develops when her body can't make enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels in a safe range.


What can you do to prevent gestational diabetes?

In some women, gestational diabetes can't be prevented. But you may lower your risk if you stay at a healthy weight and don't gain too much weight during pregnancy. Regular exercise can also help keep your blood sugar level within a target range. This can help prevent gestational diabetes.


How is gestational diabetes treated?

Controlling your blood sugar is the key to preventing problems during pregnancy and birth. You may be able to control your blood sugar with healthy eating and regular moderate exercise. If you keep up with these healthy habits, they can help prevent gestational diabetes in a future pregnancy. They can also help prevent type 2 diabetes later in life.

You'll need to check your blood sugar at home to see if it's staying in a target range. If it isn't, you may need to take diabetes medicine or give yourself insulin shots.

It's also important to have regular medical checkups. At each visit, your doctor will do tests to see how you and your baby are doing. You and your baby will be monitored closely during labor and after delivery.

When to Call

Gestational diabetes: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness), or you suddenly become very sleepy or confused. (You may have very low blood sugar.)
  • You have symptoms of high blood sugar, such as:
    • Blurred vision.
    • Trouble staying awake or being woken up.
    • Fast, deep breathing.
    • Breath that smells fruity.
    • Belly pain, not feeling hungry, and vomiting.
    • Feeling confused.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are sick and cannot control your blood sugar.
  • You have been vomiting or have had diarrhea for more than 6 hours.
  • Your blood sugar stays higher than the level your doctor has set for you.
  • You have symptoms of low blood sugar, such as:
    • Sweating.
    • Feeling nervous, shaky, and weak.
    • Extreme hunger and slight nausea.
    • Dizziness and headache.
    • Blurred vision.
    • Confusion.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have a hard time knowing when your blood sugar is low.
  • You have trouble keeping your blood sugar in the target range.
  • You often have problems controlling your blood sugar.


Managing gestational diabetes

There are ways you can manage gestational diabetes and have a healthy pregnancy. Try to eat healthy foods and stay active. Have regular checkups with your doctor. Ask how often to test your blood sugar at home. Your doctor may recommend medicine to help control your blood sugar.

Copyrighted material adapted with permission from Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.

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