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Gestational Diabetes - Know the Risks

Updated: Oct 2, 2022


During your pregnancy, you likely will be counseled regarding gestational diabetes. You may even have friends or family members who have been diagnosed with this condition. Given the potential impact on both mother and growing baby, it is important to discuss gestational diabetes as well as its risk factors and treatment.



What is Gestational Diabetes?


Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that affects women during pregnancy. This develops in women when their blood sugars are too high. Gestational diabetes occurs when hormones developed during pregnancy make insulin less effective.


How Common is Gestational Diabetes?


It is estimated that gestational diabetes affects between 2 and 10% of pregnant women in the United States.


What are the Risk Factors for Gestational Diabetes?


There are certain risk factors that may increase the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes. These include the following:


· Overweight or obesity

· Age greater than 25

· A history of prediabetes

· A family history of diabetes

· A history of a giving birth to a baby more than 9 pounds

· Race (women who are African American, Hispanic or Latino, Pacific Islander and Asian American are at higher risk)


How is Gestational Diabetes Diagnosed?


Women with risk factors are often screened during their first prenatal diagnosis. Additionally, women are routinely screened between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy.


What is the Treatment for Gestational Diabetes?


If you receive a diagnosis of gestational diabetes, your physician will likely provide treatment to keep your blood glucose level in the normal range. This treatment include a special diet, daily blood glucose monitoring, insulin and exercise.


What are the Possible Risks of Untreated Gestational Diabetes?


Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are at a higher risk of macrosomia. Fetal macrosomia is the term for babies who are much larger than average. Additionally, babies may be at risk of hypoglycemia shortly after birth. In some cases, babies may be administered glucose intravenously.


Takeaway Message:


Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that affects between 2 and 10% of pregnant women in the United States. It is important to screen for gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Women with gestational diabetes may be prescribed insulin, and providers may recommended a special diet, exercise and frequent glucose monitoring. Managing gestational diabetes is an important part of a healthy pregnancy.

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