Gestational diabetes is a silent condition. It’s is just there, and most women show no specific symptoms. It causes higher-than-normal blood sugar, and it usually goes away once you’ve delivered your baby.

Gestational diabetes can happen at almost any time during pregnancy, but it typically occurs between 24 to 28 weeks. This is also when testing usually takes place. When your body can’t make the extra insulin needed during pregnancy, it develops gestational diabetes. 

But what is insulin to begin, and why is it important to begin with? Well, insulin is a hormone produced in your pancreas, helps your body use glucose for energy, and helps control your blood glucose levels. 

You can have a healthy pregnancy, even with gestational diabetes. However, blood sugar that is not well controlled can lead to problems for the pregnant woman and the baby. 

  • Extra-large babies (macrosomia)
  • C-section because of the baby’s size.
  • Bigger than average babies sometimes get stuck in the birth canal and can be born with nerve damage due to pressure on the shoulder during delivery.
  • Low blood sugar after birth.
  • And, having gestational diabetes does make developing diabetes in the mother’s future more likely.

It may sound scary, but it isn’t unusual.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the condition affects up to 10% of pregnant women in the U.S. Some women have a higher risk of gestational diabetes. All women should be tested since diabetes doesn’t cause noticeable signs or symptoms. And the symptoms are commonly mistaken for what most women feel during any pregnancy – like increased thirst and frequent urination.

Doctors use blood tests to diagnose gestational diabetes. Most doctors will ask for one of two tests – You may have the glucose challenge test, the oral glucose tolerance test, or both. These tests show how well your body uses glucose.

What are the tests like?

Glucose Challenge Test

You may have the glucose challenge test first. Another name for this blood test is the glucose screening test. In this test, a health care professional will draw your blood 1 hour after drinking a sweet liquid containing glucose. You do not need to fast for this test.  

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)

The OGTT measures blood glucose after you fast for at least 8 hours. First, a health care professional will draw your blood. Then you will drink the liquid containing glucose. You will need your blood drawn every hour for 2 to 3 hours for a doctor to diagnose gestational diabetes.

Your health care professional may recommend an OGTT without first having the glucose challenge test.

What happens if you test positive for gestational diabetes?

Good news – it can be controlled by eating healthy foods and physical activity. But, sometimes, a woman with gestational diabetes must also take insulin injections.

Higher risks to know

· Overweight and obesity.

· A lack of physical activity.

· Previous gestational diabetes or prediabetes.

· Polycystic ovary syndrome.

· Diabetes in an immediate family member.

· Has had a baby weighing more than 9 pounds (4.1 kilograms).

· Nonwhite race — Women who are black, American Indian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander and women of Hispanic descent have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes.

· are age 35 or older

Why does it occur during pregnancy?

When you’re pregnant, your body makes special hormones and goes through other changes, such as weight gain. All pregnant women have some insulin resistance during late pregnancy, so that more glucose is available to nourish your baby. Most pregnant women can produce enough insulin to overcome insulin resistance, but some cannot. These women develop gestational diabetes.

Getting tested for gestational diabetes is very important for your health. All pregnant women are tested at least once during pregnancy. Talk to your ob-gyn. She or he will consider your risk factors to determine when you should have this test and how often you should have it.

What can I do to avoid gestational diabetes?

According to the National Institute of Diabetes, it is not always possible to prevent gestational diabetes. However, maintaining a healthy weight before and after conception, eating well, and exercising regularly during pregnancy can minimize the risk.

Healthy diet tips to control blood sugar:

· Plenty of whole fruits and vegetables.

· Moderate amounts of lean proteins and healthy fats.

· Moderate amounts of whole grains, such as bread, cereal, pasta, and rice, plus starchy vegetables, such as corn and peas.

· Avoid foods that have a lot of sugar, such as soft drinks and pastries.

It’s crucial for a woman who has had gestational diabetes to continue to exercise and eat a healthy diet after pregnancy to prevent or delay getting type 2 diabetes. 

Usually, the disease will go away after birth. However, medical check-ups are essential to prevent the development of Type II diabetes. While we’re at it: breastfeeding can reduce the risk of developing permanent diabetes after birth.

Read next:

+ The second trimester: important checkups, tests, and scans

+ Nutrition during pregnancy: you should eat well, but never for two!

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