All expecting mothers will be tested for gestational diabetes at some point during their pregnancy. Expecting mothers who are over the age of 35, over weight, or have a family history of diabetes may be tested earlier and more frequently.
What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a temporary form (in most cases) of diabetes in which the body does not produce adequate amounts of insulin to deal with sugar during pregnancy. It may also be called glucose intolerance or carbohydrate intolerance. Signs and symptoms can include:
- Sugar in urine (revealed in a test done in your doctor’s office)
- Unusual thirst
- Frequent urination
- Frequent infections of bladder, vagina and skin
- Blurred vision
Who gets gestational diabetes, and why do I have to be tested?
Approximately 2-5% of all expecting mothers will develop gestational diabetes; this number may increase to 7-9% in populations where mothers are more likely to have risk factors. The screening for this disease usually will take place some time between your 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. Doctors test for gestational diabetes during this time because the placenta is producing large amounts of hormones that may cause insulin resistance. If the result comes back with elevated levels, further testing would be done to confirm a diagnosis of gestational diabetes.
What should I expect during my test?
During your prenatal visit your doctor will give you a sweet liquid (sweet does not necessarily mean good!) to drink one hour before your blood is drawn. It may cause you to feel a bit nauseous. The results will indicate if you are producing enough insulin or not.
If I have gestational diabetes how will I be treated?
The biggest part of treating gestational diabetes is controlling your blood sugar levels. There are things you and your doctor can do in order to control your levels and keep them at a safe and normal amount:
- Close monitoring of you and your baby
- Self monitoring of blood glucose levels
- Insulin therapy, if necessary
- Diet and exercise management
- It has been reported that women who develop gestational diabetes have a greater chance of developing overt (Type II) diabetes later in life.
Is there anything I should be afraid of?
If gestational diabetes is diagnosed and treated effectively, there is little risk of complications. If gestational diabetes is not treated, effects for mother and baby can include:
- Large birth weight
- Premature delivery
- Increased chance of cesarean delivery
- Slightly increased risk of fetal and neonatal death
With proper care and treatment, women with gestational diabetes can have healthy babies, and the diabetes should disappear after delivery.
It is important that you watch for any continuing signs that you may still be diabetic after giving birth. These symptoms include:
- Frequent urination
- Persistent thirst
- Increased sugar in blood or urine
Testing may be done a few months after the delivery to make sure your blood sugar levels have returned back to normal.
Compiled using information from the following sources:
Williams Obstetrics Twenty-Second Ed. Cunningham, F. Gary, et al, Ch. 52.
MedlinePlus [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); [updated 2006 Feb 21]. Gestational Diabetes; [updated 2006 Feb 14; reviewed 2006 Jan 27; cited 2006 Feb 22]. Available from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/diabetesandpregnancy.html
American Pregnancy Association, http://www.americanpregnancy.org