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What you should know about gestational diabetes

Even women in good health can develop gestational diabetes, which is a form of diabetes that is caused by pregnancy. As part of your prenatal care, your glucose levels are monitored throughout your pregnancy and you will typically undergo glucose testing in your second trimester to test for diabetes. If you should test positive, there’s no need to panic as there are ways to manage gestational diabetes. Read on to find out what you should know about this condition.

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is diagnosed by high levels of blood sugar in a pregnant woman who did not previously have diabetes. A diagnosis of gestational diabetes does not mean you will suffer from diabetes permanently. Usually, after giving birth to your baby, your blood sugar levels will return to normal.

It is not clear why gestational diabetes occurs although what happens is that your insulin receptors stop functioning properly. Most probably, it is because there are some activities within your pregnant body that interfere with your insulin receptors, causing them to malfunction. In any case, it occurs naturally and affects 3 to 10% of all pregnant women.

Typically, gestational diabetes develops at the midway point of pregnancy. There are usually few or no symptoms, and many women find out only through screening.

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Who is at risk?

Anyone has a chance of developing gestational diabetes, but the following factors may put you at higher risk:

  • Age greater than 25
  • Family history of diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • History of miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Previous birth of a large baby or complications
  • Excessive amniotic fluid

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How do I test for gestational diabetes?

You don’t have to ask for testing as screening for gestational diabetes is included as part of your pre-natal care. When you first visit your gynecologist, you will be asked about your family history to develop your risk profile. On subsequent checkups, you are usually asked to do a simple urine test. The indicator stick will track your blood sugar levels.

If there are signs of abnormality or if you have a high-risk profile, your gynecologist may ask you to take a glucose tolerance test sooner. Otherwise, you will do it around the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy. You will be asked to fast before the test, and then to drink a very sugary drink. Blood samples will then be taken for analysis. Depending on results, you may have to do a second test to ensure an accurate diagnosis.

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What do I do if I have gestational diabetes?

There is no need to panic if you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Most women will not require any medication or insulin injections. You have to manage your blood sugar levels though, which may mean following a strict diet that excludes sugary foods and drinks. Losing weight can help too. Most doctors will let you monitor your glucose levels yourself by performing finger prick blood tests at home.

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