GESTATIONAL DIABETES: Are You + Your Baby at Risk?

During pregnancy – usually around the 24th week – many women develop gestational diabetes. The American Diabetes Association estimates that gestational diabetes affects 18% of pregnancies.

“A diagnosis of gestational diabetes doesn’t mean you had diabetes before you conceived, or that you will have diabetes after giving birth,” says board-certified ob/ gyn Steven R. Berkman, M.D., FACOG, FACS. “It is concerning, however, because gestational diabetes causes high blood sugar that can affect your pregnancy and your baby’s health.”

When to See a Doctor

Seek pre-pregnancy health counseling when you first think about becoming pregnant, says Dr. Berkman. “Your doctor will evaluate your risk of gestational diabetes as part of your overall childbearing wellness plan. Once you become pregnant, your doctor will address gestational diabetes as part of your prenatal care and perform a screening test about mid-way through your pregnancy. During the last three months of pregnancy, your doctor will carefully monitor your blood sugar level and your baby’s health.”   

For most women, gestational diabetes doesn’t cause noticeable signs or symptoms and blood sugar usually returns to normal soon after delivery. But if you’ve had gestational diabetes, you’re at an increased risk for future type 2 diabetes and complications may arise during pregnancy, including high blood pressure, preeclampsia and eclampsia. 

Are You At Risk?

Any woman can develop gestational diabetes, but some women are at greater risk, including:

• Women over the age of 25

• Women with a family or personal health history of diabetes

• Women with excess weight, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher

• Women of black, Hispanic, American Indian or Asian Heritage

Any pregnancy complication is concerning, but there’s good news, says Dr. Berkman. “Expectant moms can help control gestational diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet during pregnancy, exercising and, if necessary, using medication. Taking good care of yourself can ensure a healthy pregnancy for you and a healthy start for your baby.”