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Diabetes is a condition which causes blood sugar levels to be higher than normal. Gestational diabetes is diabetes that happens for the first time during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes can cause health problems for the mother and baby, including:
Pregnancy increases demand for insulin, a hormone that lowers blood sugar levels. When a woman’s body can’t make enough insulin to keep up with demand, gestational diabetes occurs.
Many factors increase a woman's risk of gestational diabetes, including:
Because most women who have gestational diabetes have no noticeable symptoms, health care providers routinely screen all pregnant women for gestational diabetes. This blood test usually occurs between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. If your screening reveals high blood sugar levels, your doctor will order additional diagnostic tests to confirm or rule out the diagnosis.
Regular physical activity and a healthy weight help your body use insulin and normalize blood sugar levels. Increasing your physical activity and losing excess weight before you get pregnant will lower your risk of developing gestational diabetes.
The goal of gestational diabetes treatment is to keep the mother’s blood sugar levels within the normal range. Treating gestational diabetes helps avoid complications and increases the chances of a healthy mother, baby, and birth. Many women require medication to keep their blood sugar levels down. Some take oral medications, while others need insulin injections. If you need insulin, your health care provider will show you how to test your blood sugar level and how to give yourself insulin shots.
Some women can achieve normal blood sugar levels by increasing their activity and changing their diet. Health care providers, including diabetes educators, doctors, nurses, and nutritionists, help pregnant women develop healthy eating plans in order to control their blood sugar levels.
Gestational diabetes goes away after birth. But, because women who have had gestational diabetes are at increased risk for diabetes later in life, your health care provider may recommend regular screening for diabetes.
Dignity Health provides comprehensive, ongoing care to pregnant women with gestational diabetes in Arizona.