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What is Gestational Diabetes?

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Gestational diabetes affects pregnant women who have never had diabetes before. A woman experiences high blood sugar levels during pregnancy which may have a serious impact on her and the baby. It is estimated 18 percent of pregnant women experience gestational diabetes.

  • Gestational diabetes typically starts for women during their second or third trimester of pregnancy.
  • Hormones from the placenta help the baby develop. They may also block the action of insulin, making it harder for the mother's body to use insulin. This condition is called insulin resistance. Glucose builds to high levels, which is known as hyperglycemia or diabetes.
  • Several risks increase the possibility of developing gestational diabetes. Risk factors include being 25 or older, family health history, high blood pressure, being overweight before pregnancy, having a baby who weighed over 9 pounds, an unexplained stillbirth or certain races such as black, Asian, Hispanic or American Indian.
  • Women with gestational diabetes might have the same symptoms as people with type 2 diabetes. Some women experience no symptoms at all. For this reason, pregnant women undergo a glucose tolerance test when they are 24 to 28 weeks pregnant. If a woman as at a high risk of developing gestational diabetes, she might be tested sooner.
  • During the glucose tolerance test, a woman is given a sweet soda-like solution to drink in five minutes. An hour later, blood is taken to see how her body processes sugar. If there is a problem, the woman returns for a similar test that takes three hours and also involves fasting.
  • Women who had gestational diabetes have an up to 50 percent risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life; it is essential to maintain healthy lifestyle habits.
  • Physicians may require women with gestational diabetes to check their blood sugars for the health of the mother and baby. Basic diabetic supplies including diabetic testing strips are usually recommended to test blood sugar levels.
  • In certain cases, medication might be prescribed to regulate blood sugars. Insulin is the preferred medication with the physician making the final decision. Ways to administer insulin include insulin pens, insulin syringes with bottles of insulin.
  • A physician monitors you and your baby throughout the pregnancy. Fetal monitoring is done through ultrasound and non stress tests to check the size and health of the fetus.
  • Consider meeting with a dietitian or diabetes educator during your pregnancy. An expert helps you develop healthy eating and lifestyle habits to better control blood sugar levels.
  • Healthy lifestyle choices should be maintained after delivery to lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Have your glucose checked yearly to ensure your blood sugar is under control.

If you have gestational diabetes, you are not alone and there are ways to keep you and your baby healthy. Consult with a physician, maintain a healthy lifestyle and minimize stress to keep your blood sugar under control.

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