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.
WATCHING YOUR BABY
Your health care provider should closely check both you and your baby throughout the pregnancy. Fetal monitoring will check the size and health of the fetus.
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.
Your health care provider can compare the pattern of your baby's heartbeat to movements and find out whether the baby is doing well.
DIET AND EXERCISE
The best way 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. Talk to your doctor or dietitian if you are a vegetarian or on some other special diet.
Your baby is more likely to have periods of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) during the first few days of life.
Mothers with gestational diabetes have an increased risk for high blood pressure during pregnancy.
There is a slightly increased risk of the baby dying when the mother has untreated gestational diabetes. Controlling blood sugar levels reduces this risk.
High blood sugar (glucose) levels often go back to normal after delivery. However, women with gestational diabetes should be watched closely after giving birth and at regular doctor's appointments to screen for signs of diabetes. Many women with gestational diabetes develop diabetes within 5 - 10 years after delivery.
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if you are pregnant and you have symptoms of diabetes.
Beginning prenatal care early and having regular prenatal visits helps improve your health and the health of your baby. Having prenatal screening at 24 - 28 weeks into the pregnancy will help detect gestational diabetes early.
If you are overweight, decreasing your body mass index (BMI) to a normal range before you get pregnant will decrease your risk of developing gestational diabetes.
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Benjamin TD, Pridijan G. Update on gestational diabetes. Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics. 2010 June;27(2):255-267.
A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine (9/12/2011).