Gestational diabetes is diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. Diabetes causes blood sugar levels to be higher than normal. Gestational diabetes may lead to health problems for the mother and baby, including poor health for the baby at birth, difficult delivery, and preterm labor and birth. However, most women who are treated for gestational diabetes experience healthy pregnancies and births.
At Dignity Health, we want to make sure you and your family experience a happy and healthy pregnancy and birth.
What Causes Gestational Diabetes?
When you’re pregnant, your body needs more insulin than normal to help lower your blood sugar levels. Gestational diabetes develops when a woman’s body can’t make enough insulin to meet the demand.
Many things can increase a woman's risk of gestational diabetes, including:
- Asian American, Native American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, or African American heritage
- being overweight
- family history of diabetes
- personal history of prediabetes or gestational diabetes
- polycystic ovary syndrome
- previous birth of a baby weighing more than nine pounds
Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes
High blood sugar is the main sign of gestational diabetes. However, most women with this condition have no noticeable symptoms.
Because gestational diabetes can cause serious complications but has few obvious symptoms, our doctors routinely screen for the condition between weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy.
Treating Gestational Diabetes at Dignity Health
If you have gestational diabetes, our doctors will help you lower your blood sugar levels and keep them within normal levels. Treatment increases the chances of a healthy pregnancy and delivery, and reduces the risk of complications. You can help to prevent gestational diabetes by engaging in regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight before and during your pregnancy.
For some women, diet changes and regular exercise can sufficiently control blood sugar levels. Other women need to take medication by mouth or receive insulin injections. If you need insulin, your health care provider will show you how to give yourself insulin shots as well as how to test your blood sugar levels.
Fortunately, gestational diabetes goes away after birth. However, women who have had gestational diabetes have an increased risk for diabetes later in life. Your Dignity Health doctor may recommend regular screening for diabetes. Be sure to speak with your doctor about those recommendations today.
For more information, please view our High-Risk Pregnancy page, or call us to Find a Doctor.