What is diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when the body cannot use and store the sugar you get from the food you eat the way it should. When this happens the sugar in your blood is higher than normal.
What is insulin?
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas. Its job is to carry the sugar in your bloodstream to the cells in your body. Only then can the cells in your body use the sugar for energy.
What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes found during pregnancy. It is most often seen after the 24th week of gestation. The exact cause is unknown. It is thought that it has to do with certain hormones that increase during pregnancy. These hormones work against insulin action. When this happens, blood sugars become high.
Who is at risk?
Risk factors include:
- Having other family members with diabetes
- Having an ethnic background of Hispanic, Asian, African American, Native American or Pacific Islander
- Being obese (overweight)
- If you had diabetes when you were pregnant before
- Being pregnant after age 25
How is it found?
At some time between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy, a glucose challenge test (GCT) will be done. During this test you will drink a soda-like liquid which has extra sugar in it. One hour after drinking the liquid your blood will be drawn to check your blood sugar level.
How is it treated?
The key to treating gestational diabetes is to keep blood sugar levels close to normal. In most women this can be achieved by making changes in their diet and exercise. A nutritionist will talk with you about foods and portions that are right for you. You will learn to use a blood glucose meter so you can check your blood sugar levels at least daily.
If normal blood sugar levels cannot be achieved in this way you may need to have medicine, too. The medicine may be pills or insulin shots. If insulin is needed, you will be taught how to give yourself a shot.
Will gestational diabetes harm my baby?
If blood sugars stay within the normal range by making changes in diet and exercise, the risks to the baby are very low.
If a mother's blood sugar does remain high for too long, the baby may have the problems listed below.
- The baby's blood sugar may be low at birth so he or she may need intravenous (IV) sugar to make the blood sugar rise to normal.
- The baby may grow too large making a vaginal birth very hard. A cesarean birth may be needed.
- The baby may have extra problems with jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).
- The baby has a greater chance of being overweight or obese as a child or an adult.
With good control of your blood sugar levels and regular visits with your health care provider, you and your baby should have few problems.
After your baby is born
Six weeks after your baby is born you will have a visit with your health care provider. At this time, expect to have your blood tested for diabetes. You may have a fasting blood sugar or a two-hour glucose tolerance test done.
In most women, diabetes goes away after the baby is born. Even so you will want to let your local health care provider know you had gestational diabetes. You will be at a greater risk for getting type 2 diabetes as you age. Your health care provider will want to monitor you for this.
Your risk for getting diabetes in the future can be decreased if you are able to lose any extra weight you gained while pregnant. Try to maintain good eating and exercise habits.
The Spanish version is Health Facts for You #5835
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 01/31/2013
Copyright © 01/31/2013 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5804
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