Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes first diagnosed during pregnancy and is often attributed to hormones during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes occurs in approximately 7 percent of pregnancies.
In general, women at higher risk for gestational diabetes include women with a history of gestational diabetes or abnormal glucose tolerance or PCOS, family history of diabetes, overweight, age over 25 years, high risk ethnic group (African American, American Indian, Hispanic/Latina, Asian/Pacific Islander, South-East Asian, East Indian) and history of a poor outcome for a pregnancy.
Some women who develop gestational diabetes have no risk factors, so many advocate for screening of all pregnant women. If undetected gestational diabetes can lead to problems in the newborn such as excessive growth, low blood sugar shortly after birth, low magnesium and calcium levels, jaundice, and respiratory distress syndrome. High blood glucose levels during pregnancy can cause a child to have a higher risk for obesity and diabetes later in life.
When gestational diabetes is diagnosed and controlled, these problems can be prevented in most cases. Management of gestational diabetes includes physical activity, healthy eating, blood glucose monitoring and for the majority this will be enough to control glucose levels, however, some women will need medication or insulin. Women who develop gestational diabetes are at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes. A diagnosis of gestational diabetes can help identify this risk so you can work with your healthcare team to reduce that risk.
Screening for gestational diabetes should occur for most women at 24-28 weeks gestation. Women at high risk for diabetes should be screened earlier in pregnancy.
If you would like to learn more about diabetes including gestational diabetes and diabetes prevention visit the American Diabetes Association website at http://www.diabetes.org/.
April Eddy, RN, CNS, CDE (APNP)
Diabetes Clinical Nurse Specialist for Perinatal Services