Gestational Diabetes -
Causes, Incidence & Risk Factors
Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar (diabetes) that starts or is first diagnosed during pregnancy.
Pregnancy hormones can block insulin from doing its job. When this happens, glucose levels may increase in a pregnant woman's blood.
Do you know if you're at risk for gestational diabetes? If you answer yest to one or more of the following risk factors, please speak with your physician about your concerns.
You are at greater risk for gestational diabetes if you:
- Are older than 25 when you are pregnant
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Gave birth to a baby that weighed more than nine pounds or had a birth defect
- Have sugar (glucose) in your urine when you see your doctor for a regular prenatal visit
- Have high blood pressure
- Have too much amniotic fluid
- Have had an unexplained miscarriage or stillbirth
- Were overweight before your pregnancy
Usually there are no symptoms, or the symptoms are mild and not life threatening to the pregnant woman. Often, the blood sugar (glucose) level returns to normal after delivery.
Symptoms may include:
- Blurred vision
- Frequent infections, including those of the bladder, vagina, and skin
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss in spite of increased appetite
Signs and tests
Gestational diabetes usually starts halfway through the pregnancy. All pregnant women should receive an oral glucose tolerance test between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy to screen for the condition. Women who have risk factors for gestational diabetes may have this test earlier in the pregnancy.
Once you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you can see how well you are doing by testing your glucose level at home. The most common way involves pricking your finger and putting a drop of your blood on a machine that will give you a glucose reading.
The goals of treatment are to keep blood sugar (glucose) levels within normal limits during the pregnancy, and to make sure that the growing baby is healthy.
Monitor the baby
Your healthcare provider should closely check both you and your baby throughout the pregnancy. Fetal monitoring to check the size and health of the fetus often includes ultrasound and nonstress tests both of which can be done at St. Vincent’s Medical Center.
- A nonstress test is a very simple, painless test for you and your baby. A machine that hears and displays your baby's heartbeat (electronic fetal monitor) is placed on your abdomen. When the baby moves, the baby's heart rate normally increases 15 - 20 beats above its regular rate.
- Your healthcare provider can compare the pattern of your baby's heartbeat to movements and find out whether the baby is doing well. The healthcare provider will look for increases in the baby's normal heart rate occurring with a certain period of time.
Diet and Exercise
the best way to maintain your glucose level is to improve your diet is by eating a variety of healthy foods. You should learn how to read food labels, and check them when making food decisions. St. Vincent’s offers nutritional counseling to review diet options if you are a vegetarian, on some other special diet, or simply having trouble making the right food choices.
In general, your diet should be moderate in fat and protein and provide controlled levels of carbohydrates through foods that include fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates (such as bread, cereal, pasta and rice). You will also be asked to cut back on foods that contain a lot of sugar, such as soft drinks, fruit juices and pastries.
You will be asked to eat three small- to moderate-sized meals and one or more snacks each day. Do not skip meals and snacks. Keep the amount and types of food (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) the same from day to day.
- Your doctor or nurse will prescribe a daily prenatal vitamin. They may suggest that you take extra iron or calcium. Talk to your doctor or nurse if you're a vegetarian or are on some other special diet.
- Remember that "eating for two" does not mean you need to eat twice as many calories. You usually need just 300 extra calories a day (such as a glass of milk, a banana and 10 crackers).
If managing your diet does not control blood sugar (glucose) levels, you may be prescribed diabetes medicine by mouth or insulin therapy. You will need to monitor your blood sugar (glucose) levels during treatment.
To find a St. Vincent’s physician who can discuss your health concerns or those of a loved one, please click on our FIND A DOCTOR tool and search by specialty, practice, location or keyword. We’re here to help you locate the medical expert you need.
To speak with a St. Vincent's Care Line representative, call (877) 255-7847
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