Diagnosing and Managing Gestational Diabetes
What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is diabetes that is found for the first time when a woman is pregnant. Diabetes means that your blood glucose (also called blood sugar) is too high. Your body uses glucose for energy. But too much glucose in your blood can be harmful. When you are pregnant, too much glucose is not good for your baby.
Often, women with gestational diabetes have no symptoms. However, gestational diabetes may
- increase your risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy
- increase your risk of a large baby and the need for cesarean section at delivery
Untreated or uncontrolled gestational diabetes can mean problems for your baby as well, such as
- being born very large and with extra fat; this can make delivery difficult and more dangerous for your baby
- low blood glucose right after birth
- breathing problems
Gestational diabetes is serious, even if you have no symptoms. Taking care of yourself helps keep your baby healthy. Treating gestational diabetes means taking steps to keep your blood glucose levels in a target range. You can control your blood glucose using
- a meal plan
- physical activity
- insulin (if needed)
Working closely with your health care team will help you give birth to a healthy baby. To learn more about gestational diabetes during pregnancy, including how gestational diabetes will affect you and your baby and important tips for managing gestational diabetes, visit diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/gestational/.
What Happens After Baby is Born?
If you had gestational diabetes, you should be tested for diabetes 6 to 12 weeks after your baby is born. In many cases your blood glucose levels will show that you are no longer considered to have diabetes. But what many people don’t realize is that new moms who had gestational diabetes will continue to have a greater risk for getting diabetes in the future. So even if the test for diabetes is normal right after the baby is born, these women should continue to get tested for diabetes at least every three years.
Additionally, the children of women who have a history of gestational diabetes are also at increased risk for obesity and diabetes. Be sure to tell your child’s pediatrician that you had gestational diabetes so the child’s growth and other factors can be monitored accordingly.
If you had gestational diabetes when you were pregnant, you and your
child have a lifelong risk for getting diabetes.
Because of this risk, you need to be tested for diabetes after your baby is born, then at least once every three years. Reduce your risk by taking small steps for you and your family. If you weigh too much, you can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes if you lose a small amount of weight and become more active. Your children can lower their risk for type 2 diabetes if they don’t become overweight. Serve them healthy foods and help them to be more active.
Your children can lower their risk for type 2 diabetes if they don’t become overweight. Serve them healthy foods and help them to be more active.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
It is a type of diabetes that occurs when women are pregnant. Having it raises their risk for getting diabetes, mostly type 2, for the rest of their lives. African American, Hispanic/Latina, American Indian, and Native American women have the highest risk.
A Lifetime of Small Steps for A Healthy Family Action Steps
- Ask your doctor if you had gestational diabetes. If so, let your future health care providers know.
- Get tested for diabetes 6 to 12 weeks after your baby is born, then at least once every 3 years.
- Breastfeed your baby. It may lower your child’s risk of being overweight or obese. These are risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
- Talk to your doctor if you plan to become pregnant again in the future.
- Try to reach your pre-pregnancy weight 6 to 12 months after your baby is born. Then, if you still weigh too much, work to lose at least 5 to 7 percent (10 to 14 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds) of your body weight slowly, over time, and keep it off.
- Make healthy food choices such as fruits and vegetables, fish, lean meats, dry beans and peas, whole grains, and low-fat or skim milk and cheese. Choose water to drink.
- Eat smaller portions of healthy foods to help you reach and stay at a healthy weight.
- Be active at least 30 minutes, 5 days per week to help burn calories and lose weight.
For the Whole Family:
- Ask your child’s doctor for an eating plan to help your child grow properly and stay at a healthy weight. Tell your child’s doctor that you had gestational diabetes. Tell your child about his or her risk for diabetes.
- Help your children make healthy food choices and help them to be active at least 60 minutes a day.
- Follow a healthy lifestyle together as a family. Help family members stay at a healthy weight by making healthy food choices and moving more.
- Limit TV, video, and computer game time to an hour or two a day.
* Information provided by the National Diabetes Education Program, a joint program of the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.