Pregnant women who have never had diabetes before but who have high blood glucose levels during pregnancy are said to have gestational diabetes. Approximately 5 percent of all pregnant women in the United States are diagnosed with the condition.
Causes of Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is the result of increased levels of hormones during pregnancy which interfere with the ability to manage glucose. As the pregnancy continues, more hormones are produced, and insulin resistance increases.
Typically, a woman’s pancreas is able to produce more insulin (about three times the normal amount) to overcome insulin resistance. However, for some, the pancreas cannot produce sufficient insulin to overcome the effect of the increased hormones during pregnancy. In these women, sugar levels will increase, and they will develop gestational diabetes.
Who Is at Risk for Gestational Diabetes?
There are a variety of factors that can increase your chances of developing diabetes during pregnancy:
- Family history of diabetes
- Being more than 20% over your ideal body weight before becoming pregnant
- Being older than 25
- Being diagnosed with pre-diabetes
- Previously have given birth to a baby over 9 lbs
- Having gestational diabetes with a prior pregnancy
Diagnosing Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is most often diagnosed in the second trimester when insulin resistance usually begins. If you are at an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes, your doctor may test you for the condition during the first trimester.
An oral glucose tolerance test is used to screen for gestational diabetes. This test involves drinking a sweetened liquid. As your blood absorbs the glucose, your blood sugar levels will rise. A blood sample is taken about 30 minutes after drinking the liquid to measure how the glucose was processed by your body. If the results are not in the normal range, you will be asked to take a similar test which requires you to fast before the test. If the second test also results in abnormal results, you will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
Managing Gestational Diabetes
Through the Diabetes Education Program at NYU Winthrop Hospital, we offer a unique program for women diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy. The Gestational Diabetes Education Program and provides information, guidance and support to help women successfully manage the condition and minimize possible complications.
The program offers:
- Comprehensive review of how gestational diabetes affects a mother and her baby
- Personalized Guidance from a Registered Dietitian for making healthy food choices that meet the needs of a pregnant woman with diabetes, supporting the growth of her baby
- Instruction on self-monitoring blood glucose and urine ketones
What can be done to lower the chance of getting Type 2 diabetes?
Although gestational diabetes goes away after pregnancy, about half of all women who have gestational diabetes get type 2 diabetes later in life.
Research has shown that the following lifestyle changes can prevent, or at least delay type 2 diabetes among people at risk of diabetes:
- Eating fewer high fat and high calorie foods.
- Losing at least 5%-7% of body weight, if overweight or obese.
- Being physically active for 150 minutes every week.