What is gestational diabetes?

By: Richard H. Schwarz

Gestational diabetes occurs when your body isn't able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy. Without enough insulin, sugar builds up in the blood to high levels and doesn't get used by your body for fuel.


How often does gestational diabetes occur, and what are the symptoms?

About 2 to 4 percent of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes, with most experiencing extreme hunger, thirst, or fatigue. You may be at risk if you're over age 30, are obese, have a family history of diabetes, or previously gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds or was stillborn.


What causes gestational diabetes?

This type of diabetes occurs when pregnancy hormones interfere with the body's ability to use insulin — the hormone that turns blood sugar into energy — resulting in high blood sugar levels.


What's the treatment for gestational diabetes?

If you have gestational diabetes, you'll probably be able to control your blood sugar levels with diet and exercise. You will need to get 10 to 20 percent of your calories from protein (meat, poultry, fish, and legumes), less than 30 percent from fats, and the remainder from carbohydrates (bread, cereal, pasta, rice, fruits, and vegetables). You also may need to limit sweets.

At least once a week, you'll visit your physician to get your blood sugar levels checked. If the prescribed diet fails to stabilize your blood sugar after about two weeks, you'll probably have to give yourself daily insulin injections throughout your pregnancy and monitor your blood sugar levels at home. During your third trimester, your physician will track the well-being and size of your baby with tests like ultrasound and fetal heart rate monitoring. If your baby reaches a weight of 9 pounds or more, your doctor will likely recommend a cesarean delivery. But if your baby appears healthy and of a normal size, and your blood sugar levels are well controlled, you'll probably be able to deliver vaginally.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

Content courtesy of American Baby