Have you been diagnosed with gestational diabetes? You’re not alone. About 6% of women develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy — and finding out that your pregnancy is now considered high-risk can feel scary.
Fortunately, gestational diabetes is manageable and temporary. And in honor of National Diabetes Month this November, Marc Wilson, MD, and our team at Women’s Health Specialists is here to raise awareness and answer your questions.
Understanding your gestational diabetes diagnosis
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that only develops during pregnancy. It affects how your body processes glucose (sugar), and it impacts both your health and that of your developing baby. Typically, your body uses a hormone called insulin to regulate your blood sugar levels.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can make your cells less responsive to insulin, which leads to an increase in blood sugar levels. If your body can't produce enough insulin to compensate for this, gestational diabetes can develop.
Gestational diabetes rarely causes noticeable symptoms, so most women are screened for it between weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy. We diagnose gestational diabetes with a glucose tolerance test, which involves drinking a sugary beverage and measuring your blood sugar afterward.
Why gestational diabetes makes pregnancy high-risk
Gestational diabetes is a common cause of high-risk pregnancy, because having it can increase your risk of other pregnancy complications.
For you, uncontrolled gestational diabetes can lead to high blood pressure (preeclampsia), an increased risk of cesarean section, and Type 2 diabetes later in life. Gestational diabetes also increases your risk of premature birth.
For your baby, high blood sugar from gestational diabetes can cause excessive growth (macrosomia), which can complicate delivery and result in birth injuries.
It also increases the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) shortly after birth and respiratory distress syndrome, a condition that can develop if the baby has underdeveloped lungs at birth.
What you need to know about managing gestational diabetes
While it’s true that gestational diabetes elevates your risk of complications, know that it’s manageable. With proper care, most women with gestational diabetes can have healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy babies.
Dr. Wilson and our team take a comprehensive approach to managing gestational diabetes, which can include:
Expect to have more frequent prenatal appointments if you have a high-risk pregnancy. These regular prenatal visits are crucial for your health and your baby’s, because they can help catch and address any new complications early.
If you have gestational diabetes, you must regularly monitor your blood sugar levels. We typically recommend checking your blood sugar several times a day using a blood glucose monitor.
The food you eat affects your blood sugar, so dietary modifications are an important part of gestational diabetes management. Dr. Wilson typically recommends monitoring your carbohydrate intake, avoiding high-sugar foods, and eating regular, balanced meals.
Regular exercise can help lower your blood sugar levels. Exercise can be as simple as daily walks or low-impact activities, but it must be appropriate for your health and pregnancy status. Ask our team about pregnancy-safe exercise options for you.
Insulin or other medication
For many expecting mothers, regular prenatal appointments and lifestyle changes are enough to manage gestational diabetes. But sometimes, Dr. Wilson may prescribe insulin injections or oral medications to help regulate your blood sugar levels.
A gestational diabetes diagnosis can be scary. But although it elevates your pregnancy to high-risk status, it’s possible to go on to have a healthy and successful pregnancy.
Start working with our team at Women’s Health Specialists to get personalized prenatal care for your needs. Call us at 940-202-0301 or send us a message online to learn more.