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Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. The extra glucose can affect the mother and the baby.

The exact cause is unknown. Factors that may increase the risk of gestational diabetes include:

  • Obesity or being overweight affects your body's ability to use insulin
  • Gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • Multiple pregnancy (carrying two or more babies)
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Previous delivery of a large baby
  • Age: 25 or older
  • Race: Hispanic, African-American, Native-American, Asian-American, Indigenous Australian or a Pacific Islander
  • Previous stillbirth or too much fluid surrounding a baby during pregnancy

Large Baby Due to Gestational Diabetes

Gestational Diabetes

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Gestational Diabetes Symptoms

This condition may not cause any symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Increased urination
  • Thirst
  • Hunger
  • Weakness
  • Vaginal or urinary tract infections

Testing for Gestational Diabetes

As part of prenatal screening, your doctor will test you for gestational diabetes. If you don't have a history of diabetes, the test will be done at 24-28 weeks of gestation. The doctor will give you a drink that has a special glucose solution in it. The doctor will then measure the level of glucose in your blood. Other tests may be used that require fasting (not eating or drinking anything). If you are at high risk for gestational diabetes or have symptoms, your doctor will test you earlier in the pregnancy.

Read frequently asked questions about gestational diabetes testing

Treating Gestational Diabetes

The goal of treatment is to return blood glucose levels to normal. Treatment ranges from diet and lifestyle changes to medication.

Diet Changes

A dietitian can help you develop a healthy meal plan. Guidelines include:

  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Do not skip meals.
  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and high fiber foods.
  • Limit the amount of fat you eat.
  • Avoid foods high in sugar, such as soda, candy and cookies
  • Manage your portions sizes at each meal.
  • Plan a bedtime snack each night. It should include protein and complex carbohydrates, including legumes, potatoes, corn or rice.
  • Keep a record of your food intake. Share this with your doctor.

Do not gain more weight during pregnancy than your doctor recommends. Excess weight can increase complication in your pregnancy. It will also make it more difficult to control your diabetes.

Exercise

Physical activity can make it easier for your body to use glucose. There are some precautions you may need to take or certain exercises you may need to avoid. Ask your doctor about an exercise plan.

Blood Sugar Testing

A blood glucose monitor will help you check your glucose levels throughout the day. Knowing your glucose level will help you plan your meals, activities, and medicine. Keep a record of your results. Discuss them with your doctor at your visits.

Medication

You may need to give yourself insulin injections to control diabetes. For some pregnant women, oral medicine is recommended, such as:

  • Metformin 
  • Glyburide

After delivery, glucose levels usually return to normal. Your doctor will check your glucose levels to make sure that you no longer have diabetes.

Preventing Gestational Diabetes

The following may help prevent gestational diabetes:

  • Do not gain more weight than recommended during pregnancy.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.

MAKE AN APPOINTMENT

Call our Diabetes Education and Management Program.

Have your provider send us this completed referral form (PDF).

 

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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