How Can Gestational Diabetes Affect My Baby?

Reviewed on 2/8/2021

What Is Gestational Diabetes?

Low maternal blood pressure, large babies (nearing 10 lbs.) with low blood sugar that can increase complications and require a Caesarian section are all potential problems caused by gestational diabetes.
Low maternal blood pressure, large babies (nearing 10 lbs.) with low blood sugar that can increase complications and require a Caesarian section are all potential problems caused by gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is a condition that disrupts the way the body uses sugar (glucose) during pregnancy. The body’s cells need sugar to function properly. Sugar enters the cells with the help of a hormone called insulin. If there is insufficient insulin, or if the body stops responding to insulin, sugar builds up in the blood. Gestational diabetes occurs because pregnancy increases the body's need for insulin, but the body cannot always make enough.

What Are Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes usually has no symptoms. If symptoms of gestational diabetes occur, they are usually mild and may include: 

  • Being thirstier than normal 
  • Having to urinate more frequently than usual

What Causes Gestational Diabetes?

The cause of gestational diabetes is unknown and it can be difficult to predict which women will develop the condition when they are pregnant

Risk factors for developing gestational diabetes include:

  • Prior gestational diabetes during pregnancy 
  • Being overweight/obese
  • Family history of diabetes 
  • Age older than 25
  • Ethnicity: Hispanic-American, African-American, Native American, South or East Asian, or Pacific Islander

How Is Gestational Diabetes Diagnosed?

All pregnant women are tested for gestational diabetes, usually when they are about 24 to 28 weeks pregnant. But women at high risk for gestational diabetes may be tested earlier in pregnancy. Tests include: 

  • Glucose challenge test
  • Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT)

What Is the Treatment for Gestational Diabetes?

Treatment for gestational diabetes is focused on reducing the risk of complications for the mother and baby. 

Treatment for gestational diabetes includes:

  • Diet
    • Eat three small-sized meals and three to four healthy snacks
    • Eat every two to three hours to space food evenly throughout the day
    • Do not skip meals or snacks
      • A bedtime snack is important to help keep fasting blood sugar in range
    • Avoid sweet desserts and presweetened beverages
    • Proteins should have limited saturated fat
    • Eat moderate portions of carbohydrates
      • Choose whole grains over refined grains 
      • Limit fruit servings to a small piece of fruit or approximately 1 cup at a time
      • Avoid fruit juice or limit 100 percent fruit juice to one-half cup (4 ounces) per serving.
      • Skim or 1 percent milk is best 
      • Choose plain, light or Greek low-fat yogurt 
    • Include plenty of salads, greens, broccoli, carrots, green beans, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, and other
      • Half the plate at meals can be non-starchy vegetables
    • Use healthy fats, such as olive or canola oil
  • Blood sugar monitoring 
    • Learn how to check blood sugar levels and record the results
    • Check blood sugar level four times per day:
      • Before eating in the morning
      • One or two hours after breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Exercise
    • Not necessary but can help control blood sugar levels
    • If you exercised before, continue to do so
    • If you did not exercise before, check with a doctor 
  • Insulin
    • About 15% of women with gestational diabetes will require insulin to help reduce blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of gestational diabetes-related complications
    • Insulin must be given by injection

How Do You Prevent Gestational Diabetes?

Certain lifestyle changes may reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes, such as: 

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Reviewed on 2/8/2021
References
https://www.uptodate.com/contents/gestational-diabetes-beyond-the-basics

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/gestational