About 2% of all pregnant women have type 1 or type 2 diabetes before getting pregnant. And up to 9% more will develop a type of diabetes that only happens during pregnancy: gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is a serious condition because it can increase the risk of complications for mothers and babies. It requires careful management, and the right care can help lower your risk and improve your health — and your baby’s.
As diabetes specialists, our Endocrine Associates of West Village team is here for you. Read on for the answers to some of the most common questions moms-to-be ask us about gestational diabetes.
What causes gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. It’s different from type 1 and type 2 diabetes because it only affects pregnant women.
Gestational diabetes occurs because the hormones your placenta produces during pregnancy sometimes make it difficult for your body to use insulin effectively. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels, and when it’s not working effectively, your blood sugar can get too high.
How can I lower my risk of gestational diabetes during pregnancy?
The exact causes of gestational diabetes aren’t fully understood, but certain factors can make it more likely that you develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes risk factors include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
- Having prediabetes
- Having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Personal history of gestational diabetes
- Family history of diabetes
While some risk factors are beyond your control, there are steps you can take to lower your risk of gestational diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight before pregnancy and gaining weight within the recommended range during pregnancy can reduce your risk.
Eat a healthy diet low in sugar and carbohydrates and high in fiber. Regular exercise, such as brisk walking or swimming, improves insulin sensitivity and reduces your risk of gestational diabetes.
Do I need to be tested for gestational diabetes?
Most pregnant women get screened for gestational diabetes between weeks 24 and 28. Obstetricians typically use glucose tolerance tests to diagnose it, which involves drinking a sugary liquid and having your blood drawn to measure blood sugar levels at certain intervals.
If your blood sugar exceeds the normal limit, your doctor might recommend further testing to confirm your diagnosis. Women with certain risk factors, such as being overweight or having a family history of diabetes, may be screened for gestational diabetes earlier in pregnancy.
What are the risks associated with gestational diabetes?
Like other forms of diabetes, gestational diabetes can cause various health complications. Women with gestational diabetes may be at higher risk for high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and cesarean section delivery.
Gestational diabetes can increase your baby’s risk of macrosomia (high birth weight), making delivery more difficult and increasing the risk of injuries during delivery. Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes may also be at higher risk for low blood sugar, jaundice, and respiratory distress syndrome.
If I’m diagnosed with gestational diabetes, what can I do to manage it?
Treatment for gestational diabetes typically involves lifestyle changes and monitoring blood sugar levels. If you had diabetes before getting pregnant, you must also take extra care to ensure your condition is under control.
You should eat a balanced diet and get regular moderate exercise. You’ll also need to monitor your blood sugar.
Our team offers remote glucose control, and we can help you adjust your treatment plan as needed. We monitor you closely throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period to ensure your blood sugar levels stay in a healthy range.
After delivery, your blood sugar may return to normal. Still, women with gestational diabetes are at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life. They will need to continue to monitor their blood sugar levels and make healthy lifestyle choices.
Gestational diabetes can be serious, but with proper care, you can have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Find out more about your risk for diabetes and learn how to manage your health with our diabetic care team at Endocrine Associates of West Village. Call our offices in Long Island City and New York, New York, or request an appointment online to get started.