Gestational diabetes is a specific type of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy. It occurs when the body is unable to metabolize sugar properly. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to help the body metabolize sugar. The placenta produces hormones that raise the level of glucose, or sugar, in the blood. In most women, the pancreas is able to produce more insulin to overcome this. However, when the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin, the result is gestational diabetes.
Every pregnant patient is screened for gestational diabetes between 24 to 28 weeks gestation. You will be given a glucose load, usually in the form of a flavored drink. Blood is then drawn one hour later to measure the level of glucose. If this value is elevated, your doctor may order another 3 hour Glucose Tolerance Test. This involves measuring blood glucose levels fasting and at one, two and three hour intervals after a glucose load.
Once gestational diabetes has been diagnosed, keeping blood sugar levels within the target range ensures a healthy pregnancy for both mom and baby. This involves:
- Routinely checking and recording your blood glucose levels
- Following your diet
- Exercising regularly
- Taking medications as prescribed by your doctor
Without good blood sugar control, potential complications of diabetes in pregnancy include:
- Large baby
- Difficulty with delivery
- Low blood sugar in the baby after birth
- Slower lung development
- Certain birth defects
You, your physician, and rest of your pregnancy health care team will work together to closely monitor both you and your baby throughout your pregnancy.