Every year, up to 10% of women develop gestational diabetes (GD) without ever being diagnosed with any type of diabetes before. This condition occurs exclusively during pregnancy and goes away after birth, but not without causing some potential risks for the mother and child. The placenta, essential to the support and development of a baby, produces hormones during pregnancy that interfere with insulin and the way the body uses it. This blockage of insulin causes glucose to build up instead of being absorbed into cells for energy – resulting in high blood sugar, and therefore, gestational diabetes.
There are two classes of gestational diabetes:
Type A1: This type can be managed with healthy diet and exercise. This is when the woman has an abnormal glucose tolerance test but normal glucose levels during fasting and within two hours of eating.
Type A2: This type requires insulin or other oral medication to manage. This is when there is an abnormal glucose tolerance test and abnormal glucose levels during fasting and after meals.
Risks for Gestational Diabetes
Any pregnant woman can develop gestational diabetes, but by consulting with your physician and understanding your health history, you can outline the steps needed to protect you and your baby.
Women over the age of 25 and women of African, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, or Pacific Island descent have a higher risk of this condition. Other risks that increase your chances of GD include:
- High blood pressure or high cholesterol
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Previous pregnancy with multiples
- Previous birth to a baby over 9 pounds
If gestational diabetes occurs, it does have some implications for the child, as well, such as a premature birth, low blood sugar, larger weight at birth, and an increased susceptibility to developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Though GD goes away after birth, the mother does have a 50% chance of developing type 2 diabetes herself later on. Exercise, eating well, and visiting your doctor appropriately after birth will help lower this risk.
Diagnosing Gestational Diabetes
Working with your obstetrician at Women’s HealthFirst will help you diagnose and treat gestational diabetes, so you can ease some of your stress and worry. For women exemplifying risk factors, a test should be done at the very first prenatal visit. For others, a test will be given between 24 and 28 weeks. Your physician may give you a test involving one or two parts:
Glucose tolerance test: You will drink a sweetened liquid and if your blood sugar is unusual an hour later, you will move on to the second part.
Glucose challenge test: This will only be performed if you blood sugar was high in the previous test. You will fast for eight hours and then have your blood sugar tested before drinking a sweet liquid and an hour afterwards.
Treating Gestational Diabetes With Your Women’s HealthFirst Obstetrician
The best defense against gestational diabetes is to work with your physician to get ahead of it. Whether you have class A1 or A2, you can manage your GD with a treatment plan that is custom to you. Caring for your diabetes will focus on keeping your blood glucose levels in check by:
- Testing blood sugar before and after meals
- Eating the right foods advised by your doctor and maintaining regular physical activity, like power walking
- Possibly taking insulin injections in relation to your meals and exercise
We work to understand all components of your health and life, and how they have affected you up to and through your pregnancy. This condition is manageable by you individually, and us as a team. Together, we can help keep you and your baby safe, promoting a healthy delivery.
For more information, call Women’s HealthFirst at (847) 808-8884 or request your appointment now. We have five locations near Chicago, Illinois, to serve you. Established patients are encouraged to visit the convenient online patient portal to request an appointment, message our team, update their records, and more.