High blood sugar can pose problems for mother and baby.
Gestational diabetes is caused when an expecting mother’s pancreas cannot make enough insulin, a hormone, to keep her blood sugar levels within a target range. During pregnancy, the placenta makes hormones that can make it harder for insulin to work.
With gestational diabetes, the baby may grow too large, which can cause problems during delivery. The baby may also be born with low blood sugar. Pre-existing diabetes in pregnancy is also known to cause congenital heart defects.
Gestational diabetes may not cause symptoms, so it is important to be tested, which can happen between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy with an oral glucose tolerance test. Sometimes a pregnant woman who has symptoms has been living with another type of diabetes without knowing it. Symptoms from another type of diabetes may include:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Increased hunger
- Blurred vision
However, pregnancy causes most women to urinate more often and to feel more hungry so it is important to talk to a family doctor about any symptoms and determine if testing is needed any time during pregnancy.
Some women with gestational diabetes can control their blood sugar level by changing the way they eat and by exercising regularly. These healthy choices can also help prevent gestational diabetes in future pregnancies and type 2 diabetes later in life.
Treatment for gestational diabetes also includes checking blood sugar level at home and seeing a family doctor regularly. The pregnant woman may need to take diabetes medicine or insulin shots to help control blood sugar. This insulin adds to the insulin that the body makes.
The blood sugar levels can go back to normal after the baby is born. But women who have had gestational diabetes are more likely than other women to develop type 2 diabetes later on in life.