Gestational diabetes is diabetes that a woman can develop during pregnancy. When you have diabetes, your body cannot use the sugars and starches (carbohydrates) it takes in as food to make energy. As a result, your body collects extra sugar in your blood. We don’t know all the causes of gestational diabetes. Some—but not all—women with gestational diabetes are overweight before getting pregnant or have diabetes in the family. From 1 in 50 to 1 in 20 pregnant women has gestational diabetes. It is more common in Native American, Alaskan Native, Hispanic, Asian, and Black women, but it is found in White women, too.
In gestational diabetes, blood sugar usually returns to normal soon after delivery. But if you’ve had gestational diabetes, you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes. You’ll continue working with your health care team to monitor and manage your blood sugar. Work with your doctor to make a plan to keep your blood sugar in control. Following this plan can help you have a healthy pregnancy and baby. It also can help you and your baby stay healthy after birth. Gestational diabetes can affect your baby.
Gestational diabetes that is not controlled can cause your baby to:
- Grow very large (weigh more than 9 pounds), which in turn can lead to problems with the delivery of your baby. A large baby born through the birth canal can injure nerves in his shoulder; break her collarbone; or, rarely, have brain damage from lack of oxygen.
- Have quickly changing blood sugar after delivery. Your baby’s doctor will watch for low blood sugar after birth and treat it if needed.
- Be more likely to become overweight or obese during childhood or adolescence. Obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes
Gestational diabetes that is not controlled can cause you to:
- Have problems during delivery.
- Have a very large baby and need to have a cesarean section (C-section) (an operation to get your baby out through your abdomen).
- Take longer to recover from childbirth if your baby is delivered by C-section.
Other problems that sometimes happen with gestational diabetes:
- Women with gestational diabetes also can develop preeclampsia.
- Sometimes, diabetes does not go away after delivery or comes back later after pregnancy. When this happens, diabetes then is called type 2 diabetes.
It is important during your pregnancy to keep your blood sugar under control. Here’s how:
See your doctor regularly:
Ask your doctor if you need to see him or her more often because of your diabetes. Work with your doctor and, together, you will be able to catch problems early, or even prevent them entirely.
Eat healthy foods and stay active:
Work with a dietitian or diabetes educator to develop a diabetes meal plan for yourself. Learn what to eat to keep your blood sugar under control. Stay active to help
keep your blood sugar under control:
Exercise regularly—before, during, and after pregnancy. Moderate exercise, such as a brisk walk, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week is a good goal if it is okay with your doctor.
Monitor your blood sugar often:
Be aware that your blood sugar can change very quickly, becoming too high or too low. What you eat, how much you exercise, and your growing baby will change your blood sugar many times during the day. Check your blood sugar often—as directed by your doctor, and any time you have symptoms. Know what blood sugar levels mean. Learn how to adjust what you eat; how much you exercise; and, if prescribed, how much insulin to take depending on your blood sugar tests.
Control and treat low blood sugar quickly:
Check your blood sugar right away if you have symptoms. Treat low blood sugar quickly. Always carry with you a quick source of sugar, like hard candy or glucose tablets. Wear a medical alert diabetes bracelet.
Gestational diabetes goes away after pregnancy, but sometimes diabetes stays. It’s important to be checked for diabetes after your baby is born. About half of all women who have gestational diabetes get type 2 diabetes later in life.
After pregnancy and in the future:
- Make sure to ask your doctor about testing for diabetes soon after delivery and again 6 weeks after delivery.
- Continue to eat healthy foods and exercise regularly.
- Have regular checkups and get your blood sugar checked by your doctor every 1 to 3 years.
- Talk with your doctor about your plans for more children before your next pregnancy.
- Watch your weight. Six to twelve months after your baby is born, your weight should be back down to what you weighed before you got pregnant. If you still weigh too much, work to lose 5% to 7% (10 to 14 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds) of your body weight.
- Plan to lose weight slowly. This will help you keep it off.
Eating healthy, losing weight and exercising regularly can help you delay or prevent type 2 diabetes in the future. Talk with your doctor to learn more.