Throughout your pregnancy, you’ll make many trips to the doctor’s office and take quite a few tests. One test will be for gestational diabetes, commonly known as the sugar test. It helps determine whether you are developing the type of diabetes that can occur in any pregnancy. In fact, it is estimated that gestational diabetes complicates up to 7% of all pregnancies.
Consult with a specialist: Maternal fetal medicine from Sanford Health
Blood sugars during pregnancy
Pregnant women can develop problems controlling blood sugars even if they have never had an issue before. Your body may go through changes in how it sees and consumes sugar. In addition, the placenta produces a hormone that can block insulin activity. Consequently, blood sugar levels can get become high and this condition can cross over to the baby. The baby may respond by increasing his/her own insulin and storing those extra sugars as fat. This can lead to complications with the growth and development of your baby. Gestational diabetes can result in delivery problems, baby’s inability to control their own glucose after birth, and a higher risk for diabetes later in your life.
Testing for gestational diabetes
This condition is more common in Hispanic, African-American, Native American, Asian and Pacific Islander women as well as in women with obesity and/or sedentary lifestyles. Regardless, all women should be tested for gestational diabetes.
Preparing for testing
You can eat normally the days before the test, and you do not need to fast (not eat). The day of the test you should avoid high carb or sugary foods. Also, try not to worry about the test. Do your best to stay healthy, eat right and exercise throughout your pregnancy.
The test is typically done between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Your health history, ethnic background and previous pregnancies may make you a candidate for earlier testing.
During the test, you will be given a sugary drink followed by a blood test one hour later. If your blood sugar levels are high, a more specific test may be needed. This additional test happens another day and starts with fasting — nothing is eaten for eight hours before the test — followed by drinking the sugary drink. Then, your blood sugar levels will be checked one, two and three hours later.
Video link: Diabetes in pregnancy
Living with gestational diabetes
If you develop gestational diabetes, you will learn to check and track your blood sugar. You will meet with specialists to learn how your diet and exercise can help keep you and your baby healthy. You may need medications to control your blood sugar levels and your pregnancy will be monitored closely for complications.
Gestational diabetes puts you at higher risk for other pregnancy problems like high blood pressure, preterm and Cesarean delivery. The delivery of a large baby when the mother has diabetes can be difficult and dangerous.
If you have gestational diabetes, your chance of having type 2 diabetes in the future goes up 50 percent. Consequently, testing for type 2 diabetes may be done a few months after your baby is delivered.
You should ask your doctor if you have concerns about gestational diabetes. Save the sugar for all those sweet baby kisses!
- Exercise during pregnancy: Is it safe?
- You can have a happy and healthy plus-size pregnancy
- Helpful information on pregnancy after age 35
Key points about gestational diabetes
- Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that happens during pregnancy.
- It may be caused by the hormones made by your placenta. These hormones can make insulin in your body not work as well as it should.
- Gestational diabetes happens about halfway through pregnancy and does not cause birth defects.
- If your blood sugar is not under control, your baby can develop problems. One problem is larger growth than normal. The other problem is very low blood sugar just after birth.