Gestational Diabetes

Glucose is a sugar that is our main source of energy. Health problems can occur when glucose levels are too high. Some women develop diabetes for the first time during pregnancy. This condition is called gestational diabetes if it is limited to pregnancy. Women with gestational diabetes need special care both during and after pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is caused by a change in the way a woman's body responds to insulin. Insulin is a hormone. It moves glucose out of the blood and into the body's cells where it can be turned into energy.

During pregnancy, a woman's cells naturally become slightly more resistant to insulin's effects. This change is designed to increase the mother's blood glucose level to make more nutrients available to the baby. The mother's body makes more insulin to keep the blood glucose level normal. In a small number of women, even this increase is not enough to keep their blood glucose levels in the normal range. As a result, they develop gestational diabetes. If you have risk factors for gestational diabetes, your blood glucose level is measured early in pregnancy.

If you do not have risk factors, you may be tested between 24 weeks and 28 weeks of pregnancy. The test is safe and simple. First, you drink a sugary drink. A blood sample is taken 1 hour later. If the level of glucose is high, you will need to have another, similar test in which several blood samples are taken to confirm the results. Gestational diabetes can increase the risk of problems during pregnancy. However, glucose control, a healthy diet, exercise, and medication, if needed, can decrease these risks and result in a healthy pregnancy. Women with gestational diabetes will need follow-up tests for diabetes beginning six to 12 weeks after giving birth and then every three years. They are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.