During pregnancy, your body undergoes significant changes – and sometimes those changes may create potential problems for you or your baby. Gestational diabetes is one example of a serious condition that can develop during pregnancy. Like other types of diabetes, it affects the way your cells use sugar.
Gestational diabetes develops around the 24th week of pregnancy due to hormonal changes that help the baby develop and grow. Almost all of them impair the action of insulin, a hormone that helps sugar (glucose) in blood move from your bloodstream into your cells. The extra glucose in the mother’s blood crosses through to the placenta, causing high blood glucose levels in your baby.
At birth, babies born from mothers with gestational diabetes may experience low blood glucose levels because of the extra insulin. They also have a higher risk for breathing problems. As children, they are at risk for obesity. As adults, they are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes does not cause any noticeable symptoms for most expectant mothers. However, symptoms that may you might experience are the same as other types of diabetes and can include:
Mercy physicians are experts in screening for, diagnosing and treating gestational diabetes and any related health complications. Your doctor will check for it during your prenatal exams, so it is important that you go to all of your appointments.
The screening for gestational diabetes is a simple non-fasting, oral glucose tolerance test where the mother drinks a glucose drink and is tested to see how much of the sugar her body has processed. If the blood glucose level from this test is found to be elevated, the mother will take a second test, known as a fasting oral glucose tolerance test that will check fasting blood glucose levels one, two and three hours after drinking the glucose drink.
Your Mercy physician will work with specialists such as a dietitian to help you manage the condition. We'll tailor a comprehensive care plan that combines diet, exercise and, if necessary, medication to control your blood sugar. You’ll also receive instructions on how to monitor your blood glucose levels.
After delivery, most women who develop gestational diabetes no longer have the condition. Your doctor will check your blood sugar at delivery and again 6-12 weeks after delivery to make sure your blood glucose levels have returned to normal.
Good diabetes management can be overwhelming, especially when you're first diagnosed. Take it one day at a time, and remember that you're not alone. The diabetes specialists at Mercy will work closely with you to manage your blood sugar and keep you and your baby healthy.