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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Gestational Diabetes: Careful Management Is Key for this Common Pregnancy Complication

By Dr. Robert Wool

Up to ten percent of pregnant women experience a condition called gestational diabetes, which, like other forms of diabetes, means the body does not produce enough insulin to properly break down sugars into energy. The exact cause is unknown, but the hormonal changes and weight gain that occur during pregnancy can trigger insulin resistance in some women.

Left untreated, gestational diabetes can be harmful to both your and your baby’s health, so careful management is key. The good news is it can usually be managed with diet, exercise and sometimes medication, along with careful monitoring.

Risk Factors

Although the causes of gestational diabetes aren’t fully understood, there are some factors that seem to increase the risk including:

·         Excess weight before and during pregnancy

·         Lack of physical activity

·         Having prediabetes before pregnancy or gestational diabetes in a past pregnancy

·         Polycystic ovary syndrome

·         A family history of diabetes


Because there aren’t typically obvious symptoms of the condition, all expectant mothers are tested for gestational diabetes during their pregnancy, typically between the 24th and 28th week. If the test is positive, you and your health care provider will develop a plan to successfully manage the condition.


Close Management

If gestational diabetes isn’t controlled, it can have a serious impact on the health of both you and the baby. For example:

·         Your baby is more likely to be very large (nine pounds or more), which can lead to a preterm birth, a complicated delivery and/or a C-section delivery. The risk of stillbirth also increases.

·         Babies born early often have serious breathing difficulties, called respiratory distress syndrome.

·         Your baby may experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) after birth, which can lead to seizures.

·         You are more likely to experience high blood pressure and preeclampsia, which can be life-threatening to both of you.

·         You and your baby have a greater risk of becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes later in life.


These complications can be avoided with careful management throughout your pregnancy. This typically involves regular finger sticks to test your blood sugar levels, a special diet that minimizes sugars and carbohydrates to keep blood sugar levels steady, and moderate daily exercise to lower blood sugar.


In cases where diet and exercise alone aren’t enough, we may prescribe medications, such as insulin or metformin, to help manage your blood sugar levels. You’ll also have more frequent appointments with your provider so we can closely monitor your health and your baby’s growth and development throughout your pregnancy.


Once your baby is born, you will both have blood sugar tests, but in the vast majority of well-controlled cases, the condition resolves after delivery.


Healthy Mom and Baby

As with any pregnancy, our goal is a healthy mom and baby. If you develop gestational diabetes, you are not alone. While you may feel anxious at first, we will give you the information, guidance and support you need every step of the way.