About 3 to 5 percent of pregnant women in the United States develop gestational diabetes. This is a form of diabetes that can develop in response to the many changes that occur during pregnancy. Diabetes affects the way your body uses blood sugar, or glucose. Certain factors—such as obesity and family history—may put some at greater risk. But, any pregnant woman can get it. And, most don’t experience any symptoms. So, it’s important for all expectant mothers to be screened.
How is it diagnosed?
An initial screening typically is done between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. It usually involves drinking a glucose mixture, and then having your blood sugar tested one hour later. If it measures high, your doctor may decide to do a more involved test.
Is it dangerous?
Gestational diabetes rarely causes serious birth defects. However, there may be complications, especially if the condition is untreated. You may run the risk of having a very large baby—a condition known as macrosomia. This may cause problems during delivery. In some instances, a cesarean birth may be advised. You also may be at a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
Additionally, babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes may be at greater risk for certain health conditions, such as:
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) shortly after birth
- Respiratory Distress Syndrome
- Obesity or other weight problems in childhood or adulthood
- Higher risk of high blood sugar as they get older
How is it treated?
Complications of gestational diabetes can be reduced—or even prevented—by managing your condition. Work with your doctor to develop a plan. You may need medication. Other steps include:
- Monitor glucose levels. Keeping your blood sugar levels in check can help you avoid problems. Your doctor can advise you on how and when you should test them.
- Watch your diet. Eating the right kind and amount of food is one of the best ways to control blood sugar levels. Your doctor can provide tips on when and what you should eat.
- Exercise. Staying active can help keep blood sugar levels low. Certain low-impact exercises, such as water aerobics or walking, usually are good choices for pregnant women.
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