Gestational Diabetes Symptoms and Signs

Gestational Diabetes Symptoms and Signs

January 24, 2019

Gestational Diabetes Symptoms and Signs

Gestational Diabetes Symptoms and Signs
Photo by @xicana_mama
Gestational Diabetes Symptoms and Signs

Every mom-to-be gets tested for gestational diabetes, but what is it exactly? And how will you know if you have it? We have answers to your biggest questions about gestational diabetes symptoms, causes and treatments, including these:

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a condition that causes blood sugar to become abnormally high. With diabetes, the body doesn’t use sugar (a.k.a. glucose) for energy the way it should, so blood sugar isn’t at a normal level. “Gestational” specifically means that it’s happening because you’re pregnant.

The good news is that gestational diabetes can be managed with proper treatment, but it’s important to know whether or not you have gestational diabetes, so you can watch your blood sugar closely and prevent health problems for you and complications for your baby.

Oh, and know that it’s standard practice for every mom-to-be to get screened for gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks pregnant. These tests are the glucose challenge test and the glucose tolerance test.

How does gestational diabetes affect the baby?

Your baby should be just fine as long as your gestational diabetes gets diagnosed and treated. Without taking action, the baby could have a high birth weight, be born prematurely, have a higher risk of c-section and higher risk of stillbirth. Those aren’t things you want to risk, so it’s really important to get proper treatment if you’re diagnosed.

What causes gestational diabetes?

The causes of gestational diabetes are twofold: the combination of weight gain (particularly in the first trimester) and hormonal changes during pregnancy can contribute to gestational diabetes.

“Your body’s ability to metabolize glucose is impaired if you have increased weight,” explains Yvonne Bohn, MD, OB/GYN at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. “Also, the placenta releases a hormone called hPL (human placental lactogen)…which basically can impair the body’s ability to uptake glucose. That’s what called insulin resistance.”

Insulin is another hormone that helps control your blood sugar; it moves the glucose from your blood to be used as energy.

In order to keep your blood sugar levels where they need to be during your pregnancy, your body (specifically your pancreas) tries to make more insulin. If it can’t, though, you end up with gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes symptoms

There are no true gestational diabetes symptoms, Bohn says. The only real sign of gestational diabetes is testing positive for it.

But, just like regular diabetes, there are some signs that can be associated with gestational diabetes, so you should tell your doctor if you notice any of these:

  • Excess thirst or dry mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea (this could be hard to decipher from regular morning sickness but if it lasts longer than expected or somehow feels different, let your healthcare provider know)
  • Fatigue (pregnancy fatigue is real, so this also could be hard to differentiate from regular pregnancy symptoms, but talk to your doctor if it’s concerning to you)
  • Frequent infections, like yeast infections, UTIs and skin infections
  • Blurred vision

Risk factors for gestational diabetes

While any pregnant woman can get gestational diabetes, there are some factors that can put you at a higher risk of developing the condition. You’re at higher risk for gestational diabetes if you:

  • Are over 25 years old. There’s also an increased risk again for women over 35 years of age
  • Have prediabetes
  • Have a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Have a BMI of 30 or higher
  • Are of Latina, Native American, African American or of Pacific Islander descent

Gestational diabetes treatment

If you’re diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it’s not the end of the world. Your doctor will want to monitor you and your baby more often throughout your pregnancy and will likely refer you to a dietician who can help design a meal plan that keeps your blood sugar in check.

You’ll get instructions on how to monitor your blood sugar, and you’ll have to check it multiple times a day after meals to make sure it’s at a healthy level.

“This will educate you on what foods you’re eating that are triggering your sugars,” Bohn says. “Women with signs of gestational diabetes need to eat more protein and vegetables and fewer carbs. Really, though, that’s the diet all of us should be eating.”

In addition to healthy eating, exercise can help. “I tell all my pregnant patients to exercise five days a week for a minimum of 30 minutes a day unless they have a condition that restricts them from exercise,” Bohn says. “If a woman exercises after she eats, that will bring her blood sugar down. If you go for a quick walk after a meal, it helps your body to metabolize that extra glucose.”

Talk with your doctor about what kind of exercise might be right for you and your pregnancy—walking, swimming and prenatal yoga are all forms of pregnancy exercises that can be effective yet gentle on your body.

Does gestational diabetes go away?

The good news is, yes, gestational diabetes does go away soon after the baby’s born.

“For a lot of women with gestational diabetes, their blood sugars return to normal really quickly after they deliver,” Bohn explains. “The exception would be if you really have type 2 diabetes, and it’s not just due to pregnancy. Then, the (issues around) regulating your blood sugars would stick around after delivery.”

Know that if you have gestational diabetes, you are at higher risk for developing diabetes later in life. So you’ll want to continue exercising, eating healthfully and getting regular check-ups after pregnancy. “We recommend getting a checkup around 6 weeks to 2 months postpartum to see what blood sugars are doing,” Bohn says.

It’s a good idea to get tested every few years after you’ve had your baby, too, since you’re at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Knowing these gestational diabetes signs, symptoms and treatments can help you manage this condition if you’re diagnosed and still have a healthy pregnancy and baby.

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