What is it?
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. In pregnancy, the changing hormones and effects of a growing baby can result in you not being able to produce enough insulin. When you don’t have enough insulin, sugar begins to build up in your blood and cause symptoms of diabetes. All women should be tested for gestational diabetes before 28 weeks of pregnancy.
It is important to remember that this does not mean your baby will be born with diabetes, and with proper management you can expect a healthy, happy baby.
- Being over the age of 35
- Being part of a high-risk population (Asian, South East Asian, Aboriginal, Hispanic, or African)
- Being obese (BMI of 30kg/m2 or higher)
- Having previously given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds at birth
- Having gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- Being diagnosed with prediabetes
- Having a family member (parent or sibling) with type 2 diabetes
- Using corticosteroid medications
- Having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
You and Your Baby
Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes means that you will have to work closely with your healthcare team to manage your blood sugar levels. Keeping your blood sugar levels in a target range will help to avoid complications during labour and delivery.
Unmanaged gestational diabetes increases the risk of giving birth to a baby that weighs more than 9 pounds. It also increases the risk of your child being overweight or developing type 2 diabetes in the future.
After giving birth, your blood sugars should return to a normal range. However, you are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future, and for having gestational diabetes again in a future pregnancy. You can think of it as having a set amount of insulin for your life. Pregnancy causes a step down because placental hormones lead to more insulin being required to control sugars. Once gestational diabetes develops then the pancreas is working at its maximum and still can’t make enough insulin to control your blood sugars. Once pregnancy is over typically blood sugars go back to normal but the pancreas has taken a ‘hit’ so your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is higher because that set amount of insulin you have is now lower.
Managing Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is managed with lifestyle changes, and potentially insulin therapy.
Blood Glucose Monitoring
An important part of managing diabetes is monitoring your blood sugar levels. A blood glucose meter is used to monitor your blood sugar levels, using a small drop of blood from your finger. The information from testing your blood sugar levels at home will help you and your healthcare team make decisions about your treatment.
Eating a healthy balanced diet that promotes appropriate weight gain in your pregnancy will help you manage gestational diabetes.
Regular physical activity can help you manage your blood sugar levels by reducing insulin resistance. It also has many other health benefits such as boosting energy, helping you sleep better, and helping you get back to a pre-pregnancy weight.
Appropriate Pregnancy Weight Gain
The amount of weight you need to gain during your pregnancy is based on what you weighed before your pregnancy. It is never recommended to lose weight during pregnancy. Your healthcare team can tell you what is appropriate weight gain for you.
Sometimes following a healthy diet and being physically active is not enough to lower your blood sugar levels into a healthy range. In this case, your doctor may recommend you take insulin injections for the rest of your pregnancy to help keep your blood sugars in a target range.