Gestational Diabetes – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment


What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs only during pregnancy. This condition happens when high levels of blood sugar (glucose) occur in pregnant women. Gestational diabetes can cause health problems for both mother and baby. Managing your diabetes can help protect you and your baby.

What causes gestational diabetes?
Pregnancy hormones can block insulin from doing its job. When this happens, sugar (glucose) level may increase in a pregnant woman’s blood.

Pregnant women are at higher risk for gestational diabetes if they:

  • Are older than 25 when pregnant
  • Come from a higher risk ethnic group, such as Latino, African American, Native American, Asian, or Pacific Islander
  • Have a family history of diabetes
  • Gave birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds (4 kg) or had a birth defect
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have too much amniotic fluid
  • Have had an unexplained miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Were overweight before pregnancy
  • Gain too much weight during pregnancy
  • Have polycystic ovary syndrome

What are the symptoms of gestational diabetes?
Usually, there are no symptoms. The diagnosis is made during a routine prenatal screening. Mild symptoms of increased thirst or shakiness may be present. These symptoms are usually not life-threatening to the pregnant woman.

The following are the other symptoms that may be present:

  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent infections, including those of the bladder, vagina, and skin
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination

How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?
Gestational diabetes most often starts midway through the pregnancy. It is usually diagnosed when a pregnant woman is tested for glucose intolerance during routine prenatal screening. All pregnant women usually receive an oral glucose tolerance test between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy to look for the condition. Women who have risk factors for gestational diabetes have this test earlier in the pregnancy.

How is gestational diabetes treated?
The goal of treatment is to keep blood sugar (glucose) level within normal limits during the pregnancy and to make sure that the growing baby is healthy. Your doctor may treat your gestational diabetes with daily glucose monitoring, diet changes, and exercise. If diet and exercise fail to control your blood glucose, the doctor may prescribe diabetes medicine or insulin.

This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.

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