Gestational Diabetes: Testing Helps Protect Yourself and Your Baby

September 2017

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops only during pregnancy. Diabetes means your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Your body uses glucose for energy. But too much glucose in your blood is not good for you or your baby.

You’ll be tested for gestational diabetes as part of your routine prenatal care. For the initial test, you’ll drink a syrupy glucose solution. One hour later, you’ll have a blood test to measure your blood sugar level. If it is higher than normal, it only means you have a higher risk of gestational diabetes. You’ll need a glucose tolerance test to determine if you have the condition.

For the glucose tolerance test, you’ll fast overnight, then have your blood sugar level measured. Then you’ll drink a solution containing a higher concentration of glucose and your blood sugar level will be checked every hour for three hours. If at least two of the readings are higher than normal, you’ll be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is usually diagnosed during late pregnancy. If you are diagnosed with it earlier in your pregnancy, you may have had diabetes before you became pregnant.

Researchers don’t know all the causes of gestational diabetes. Some (but not all) women with gestational diabetes are overweight before getting pregnant or have a history of diabetes in the family. Somewhere between 1 in 20 and 1 in 50 pregnant women develops the condition.

Gestational diabetes can be managed with diet, exercise and, often, medication. Gestational diabetes that is not controlled can cause your baby to grow very large, which can lead to problems with delivery. It can increase your chances of having to have a cesarean delivery. It can also cause your baby to have quickly changing blood sugar after delivery. Your baby’s doctor will watch for low blood sugar after birth and treat it if necessary.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

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