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How Do You Know If You Have Gestational Diabetes

Gestational Diabetes And Pregnancy

Gestational Diabetes: What to Know

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that is first seen in a pregnant woman who did not have diabetes before she was pregnant. Some women have more than one pregnancy affected by gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually shows up in the middle of pregnancy. Doctors most often test for it between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy.

Often gestational diabetes can be controlled through eating healthy foods and regular exercise. Sometimes a woman with gestational diabetes must also take insulin.

Tips For Women With Gestational Diabetes

  • Eat Healthy FoodsEat healthy foods from a meal plan made for a person with diabetes. A dietitian can help you create a healthy meal plan. Learn more about diabetes meal planning.
  • A dietitian can also help you learn how to control your blood sugar while you are pregnant. To find a registered dietician near you, please visit The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics websiteexternal icon.
  • Exercise RegularlyExercise is another way to keep blood sugar under control. It helps to balance food intake. After checking with your doctor, you can exercise regularly during and after pregnancy. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at least five days a week. This could be brisk walking, swimming, or actively playing with children.Learn more about physical activity during pregnancy »
  • Monitor Blood Sugar OftenBecause pregnancy causes the bodys need for energy to change, blood sugar levels can change very quickly. Check your blood sugar often, as directed by your doctor.
  • Take Insulin, If NeededSometimes a woman with gestational diabetes must take insulin. If insulin is ordered by your doctor, take it as directed in order to help keep blood sugar under control.
  • Can You Prevent Diabetes During Pregnancy

    Gestational diabetes cannot always be prevented however, obesity is a prime determinant for developing the disease. Maintaining a healthy weight and following a good nutritional plan both before and during pregnancy can decrease your chances of developing gestational diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight can also decrease your chances of developing type 2 diabetes following pregnancy.

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    What If I Test Positive

    Remember: its not the end of the world. Its scary, but as youll learn, you and your baby will be fine.

    If your test is positive, your doctor will most likely prescribe more doctor appointments, and monitor your blood sugar closely. Youll be asked to take your blood sugar several times a day. I took mine every few hours, which meant I pricked my finger to get a reading 5 6 times per day.

    Many times, you can control your blood sugar through a healthy, no sugar-diet. Other times, insulin may be required.

    Because I closely monitored my sugar levels, ate a no-sugar diet, and made sure I exercised every day, I was able to stay off insulin.

    Risks Of Gestational Diabetes

    How Can I Tell If I Have Gestational Diabetes

    Women who fail to seek treatment for gestational diabetes run the risk of giving birth to big babies , since much of the extra sugar in the mother’s blood ends up going to the fetus. Larger babies are more likely to suffer birth injuries during vaginal delivery, as they’re more apt to get stuck in the birth canal.

    Because of this, large babies are often delivered by c-section, and they have an increased risk of developing breathing difficulties and jaundice as newborns.

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    How Can Gestational Diabetes Affect Your Baby

    Gestational diabetes develops in the mother late in pregnancy, after the baby has been formed, but before its done growing. If you find you have gestational diabetes, its important to follow your doctors instructions so you baby wont be affected.

    Poorly treated, or untreated gestational diabetes can lead to macrosomia in the baby.

    Babies with macrosomia face health problems of their own, including damage to their shoulders during birth. Because of the extra insulin made by the babys pancreas, newborns may have very low blood glucose levels at birth and are also at higher risk for breathing problems. Babies with excess insulin become children who are at risk for obesity and adults who are at risk for type 2 diabetes.

    More Than One Test May Be Needed For Diagnosis

    There are a couple of tests used to determine whether a woman has gestational diabetes. The first is called a Glucose Challenge Test. Depending on the results of this first test, a second test called a Glucose Tolerance Test may be necessary.

    For the glucose challenge test, you do not need to fast before the appointment. There are two steps for this test:

    • At the beginning of the appointment, youll be given about five ounces of a glucose solution to drink. The solution is syrupy and some women may find they do not like the taste.
    • You stay in the office or lab setting for an hour to wait to have your blood tested. After the hour is up, blood is drawn from a vein in your arm. The blood will then be tested to see your blood sugar level.

    If your blood sugar is too high , you might have gestational diabetes. To confirm the diagnosis, you will need to have a different test done.

    The second test will be a glucose tolerance test. This test differs from the glucose challenge test in several ways even if the general idea is the same. For example, the glucose tolerance test takes three hours instead of just one and you must fast before the appointment. Then the process is as follows:

    • A blood sample is taken at the beginning to determine fasting blood sugar.
    • You will drink about eight ounces of the glucose solution.
    • Your blood glucose level will be tested again one, two and three hours after you drink the solution.

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    Understand The Glycaemic Index

    The gylcaemic index is a measure of how quickly foods containing carbs affect your blood sugar levels after you eat them. Some foods affect sugars levels quickly and so have a high GI, and others take longer to affect blood sugar levels and so have a low GI. To help you manage your blood sugar levels, go for carbs with a lower GI. Youll still need to think about your portion sizes. Its the amount of carbs in the meal that will affect your blood sugar levels the most. And not all low GI foods are healthy, so make sure you read food labels and make a healthy choice.

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    Prognosis Of Gestational Diabetes

    What do I need to know about gestational diabetes?

    However, women who have had gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of getting it again during future pregnancies and are also at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes later in life. For this reason, its important for women who have had gestational diabetes to have their blood glucose levels regularly checked even after pregnancy.

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    If I Have Gestational Diabetes How Will It Be Treated

    Treating gestational diabetes comes down to one key factor: controlling your blood sugar. The goal is to manage your blood glucose level so that it doesnt go too high and stay high. This is accomplished by eating wisely, remaining physically active, and if needed taking medication to help keep your blood sugar levels in your target range.

    The importance of treating gestational diabetes gained attention following the Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes trial, which demonstrated a direct link between continuous treatment of the maternal glucose levels and reducing negative outcomes.2

    • Eating Wisely. Meals will require more thought, indeed a lot more thought, than must be necessary if you have gestational diabetes. You’ll need to pay attention to what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat. A registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator can help you create a meal plan thats full of good-for-you and good-for-the-baby foods. The goal of the meal plan is to make it easier to control your blood glucose level so it stays in your target range. Your meal plan will reflect your likes and dislikes, and will take into account your overall health and physical activity level.For more information on what goes into the meal plan and what you can eat, read our article on the healthy meal planning with diabetes.

    What You Need To Know About Gestational Diabetes

    If youre pregnant, youve likely heard of gestational diabetes, which is when a pregnant woman develops high blood sugar due to hormonal changes.

    The condition affects three to seven percent of non-Aboriginal pregnant women and up to eight to 18 percent of Aboriginal women in Canada. Many factors affect the risk of developing gestational diabetes, including:

    • a previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes or delivery of a macrosomic infant
    • being a member of a high-risk population, including women of Aboriginal, Hispanic, South Asian, Asian and African descent
    • being 35+ years of age
    • being obese
    • a history of polycystic ovary syndrome

    We spoke to Lauren Davidson, a clinical dietitian and diabetes educator, for information including how to know if youre at risk, how to manage the condition, and how it could affect your baby.

    Q: How do you know if you have gestational diabetes?

    Q: What does the screening test involve?

    A: An oral glucose tolerance test involves fasting for eight hours, after which blood glucose will be tested. A woman will then drink a glucose-rich drink and her blood glucose will be monitored one, two and three hours after. Gestational diabetes is diagnosed if two of the readings are above normal.

    Q: Is gestational diabetes risky for the mom or the baby?

    Q: How is diabetes managed during pregnancy?

    Q: What are the future implications or risks for moms who develop gestational diabetes?

    Q: What else should women with gestational diabetes keep in mind?

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    Problems Of Gestational Diabetes In Pregnancy

    Blood sugar that is not well controlled in a woman with gestational diabetes can lead to problems for the pregnant woman and the baby:

    An Extra Large Baby

    Diabetes that is not well controlled causes the babys blood sugar to be high. The baby is overfed and grows extra large. Besides causing discomfort to the woman during the last few months of pregnancy, an extra large baby can lead to problems during delivery for both the mother and the baby. The mother might need a C-Section to deliver the baby. The baby can be born with nerve damage due to pressure on the shoulder during delivery.


    A C-section is an operation to deliver the baby through the mothers belly. A woman who has diabetes that is not well controlled has a higher chance of needing a C-section to deliver the baby. When the baby is delivered by a C-section, it takes longer for the woman to recover from childbirth.

    High Blood Pressure

    When a pregnant woman has high blood pressure, protein in her urine, and often swelling in fingers and toes that doesnt go away, she might have preeclampsia. It is a serious problem that needs to be watched closely and managed by her doctor. High blood pressure can cause harm to both the woman and her unborn baby. It might lead to the baby being born early and also could cause seizures or a stroke in the woman during labor and delivery. Women with diabetes have high blood pressure more often than women without diabetes.

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    Experts Answers For Readers Questions

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    Will gestational diabetes affect my baby?

    Yes, gestational diabetes can affect the baby. It increases their risk of developing diabetes later in life.

    Can I eat bananas with gestational diabetes?

    You can eat bananas in moderation if you have gestational diabetes.

    Can you get rid of gestational diabetes while pregnant?

    If you have never had diabetes, are not obese or overweight, or do not have a family history of diabetes, you can get rid of diabetes through lifestyle changes while pregnant.

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    What Causes Gestational Diabetes

    Gestational diabetes occurs when your body cant make the extra insulin needed during pregnancy. Insulin, a hormone made in your pancreas, helps your body use glucose for energy and helps control your blood glucose levels.

    During pregnancy, your body makes special hormones and goes through other changes, such as weight gain. Because of these changes, your bodys cells dont use insulin well, a condition called insulin resistance. All pregnant women have some insulin resistance during late pregnancy. Most pregnant women can produce enough insulin to overcome insulin resistance, but some cannot. These women develop gestational diabetes.

    Being overweight or obese is linked to gestational diabetes. Women who are overweight or obese may already have insulin resistance when they become pregnant. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy may also be a factor.

    Having a family history of diabetes makes it more likely that a woman will develop gestational diabetes, which suggests that genes play a role.

    How Can I Prevent Gestational Diabetes

    There are no guarantees when it comes to prevention, but the more healthy habits you can adopt before pregnancy, the better. If youve had gestational diabetes, these healthy choices may also reduce your risk of having it again in future pregnancies or developing type 2 diabetes in the future.

    • Eat healthy foods Choose foods high in fiber and low in fat and calories. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Strive for variety to help you achieve your goals without compromising taste or nutrition. Watch portion sizes.
    • Keep active exercising before and during pregnancy can help protect you from developing gestational diabetes. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week. Take a brisk daily walk. Ride your bike. Swim laps. Short bursts of activity such as parking further away from the store when you run errands or taking a short walk break all add up too.
    • Start pregnancy at a healthy weight if youre planning to get pregnant, losing extra weight beforehand may help you have a healthier pregnancy. Focus on making lasting changes to your eating habits that can help you through pregnancy, such as eating more vegetables and fruits.
    • Dont gain more weight than recommended gaining some weight during pregnancy is normal and healthy. But gaining too much weight too quickly can up your risk of gestational diabetes. Ask your doctor what a reasonable amount of weight gain is for you.

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    Complications That May Affect You

    If you have gestational diabetes, youre more likely to get it again during a future pregnancy. You also have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes as you get older. Testing may be done a few months after the delivery to make sure your blood sugar levels have returned back to normal. Talk to your doctor if you experience symptoms of Type II diabetes.

    Want to Know More?

    How Gestational Diabetes Can Affect Your Pregnancy

    How to Know if I Have Gestational Diabetes

    Most women with gestational diabetes have otherwise normal pregnancies with healthy babies.

    However, gestational diabetes can cause problems such as:

    • your baby growing larger than usual this may lead to difficulties during the delivery and increases the likelihood of needing induced labour or a caesarean section
    • polyhydramnios too much amniotic fluid in the womb, which can cause premature labour or problems at delivery
    • premature birth giving birth before the 37th week of pregnancy
    • pre-eclampsia a condition that causes high blood pressure during pregnancy and can lead to pregnancy complications if not treated
    • your baby developing low blood sugar or yellowing of the skin and eyes after he or she is born, which may require treatment in hospital
    • the loss of your baby though this is rare

    Having gestational diabetes also means you’re at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.

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    Duration Of Gestational Diabetes

    Diabetes that appears during pregnancy typically goes away right after delivery, but that is not always the case.

    For true gestational diabetes it should resolve immediately after birth, since the insulin resistance is driven by the metabolic and hormonal changes in pregnancy, says Emily Fay, MD, a maternal-fetal-medicine specialist at UW Medicine, who helps run the Diabetes in Pregnancy Program there. However, sometimes when we diagnose a woman with gestational diabetes in pregnancy, it is actually that she has pre-gestational diabetes that we diagnosed during pregnancy.

    Pre-gestational diabetes is any diabetes arising prior to pregnancy, including type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as well as other more rare types of diabetes like medication-induced diabetes or Cystic Fibrosis-related diabetes. Pre-gestational diabetes will not resolve after delivery.

    The way to tell whether the patient had gestational diabetes or pre-gestational diabetes, Dr. Fay explains, is by doing a glucose test at the postpartum visit. This allows your doctor to screen for pre-gestational diabetes and insulin resistance.

    If you have pre-gestational diabetes that was diagnosed during pregnancy, your doctor will discuss a treatment plan with you. This may include diet and lifestyle modifications, and use of insulin or oral medications.

    How Do You Know If You Have Diabetes

    We explore the diabetes warning signs to look out for

    An astonishing 1.8 million Australians are living with diabetes â a chronic and complex condition caused by relative or absolute deficiency of the hormone insulin.

    In Australia, one person develops diabetes every five minutes â thatâs 280 new people with diabetes each day â and those numbers are on the rise.

    But how do you know if you have diabetes? Are there any diabetes warning signs to look out for? And are you at risk?

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    Will Gestational Diabetes Go Away

    Most likely, after you deliver your baby, gestational diabetes should go away. About six weeks after delivery, your doctor will check your blood glucose level to see if its in the normal range again.

    However, because you had gestational diabetes, youre at a higher risk for having it again in another pregnancy. Youre also at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes. To learn how to prevent type 2 diabetes, read our article on prevention.

  • American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes2018. Diabetes Care. 2018 41:S137-S143.
  • International Association of Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Group Recommendations on the Diagnosis and Classification of Hyperglycemia in Pregnancy. Diabetes Care. 2010 33:676682
  • Metzger BE, Lowe LP, Dyer AR, et al, for the HAPO Study Cooperative Research Group. Hypergylycemia and adverse pregnancy outcomes. N Engl J Med. 2008 May 8 358:1991-2002.
  • Ottawa Histology website. The placenta. Available at: Accessed April 30, 2009.

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