Some women develop diabetes after they become pregnant, a condition known as gestational diabetes. “The good news is that it’s a treatable condition,” says Patrice Trauffer, M.D., maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Holy Redeemer. “Both mother and baby can be healthy, often with lifestyle changes alone."
What Is Gestational Diabetes?
Hormones that help your baby develop during pregnancy may prevent insulin from working normally in your body. Insulin helps move sugar, or glucose, from your blood into your cells. If you become resistant to insulin, your blood glucose level rises. Women who develop high blood glucose for the first time while pregnant have gestational diabetes. However, some women diagnosed with diabetes early in pregnancy may have had undiagnosed preexisting diabetes.
Who Is At Risk?
The following factors increase your risk for developing gestational diabetes:
- Being of African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, American Indian, or Pacific Islander descent
- Being overweight or obese
- Having a relative with diabetes
- Being older than age 25
- Having pre-diabetes or glucose intolerance
- Having had gestational diabetes
- Having had a stillbirth or given birth to a large baby (more than 9 pounds)
If you have none of these risk factors, you’re at low risk, but you’ll be tested for gestational diabetes as a precaution. If you have one or more risk factors, your health care provider will test you when you are between 24 and 28 weeks pregnant. If you are obese, have a family history of diabetes, have glucose in your urine, or have had gestational diabetes before, you should be tested as soon as you know you’re pregnant.
Ensure a Healthy Pregnancy
Without treatment, gestational diabetes carries some serious risks. These include the risk for:
- High blood pressure and sudden high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia) in the mother
- The baby being so large that the mother must have a cesarean section instead of vaginal delivery
- Breathing problems and blood glucose problems in the baby after birth
“Getting treatment can help reduce these risks,” says Dr. Trauffer. “The key to keeping yourself and your baby healthy is to manage your blood glucose level.” Many women can do this simply by following a healthy meal plan and getting regular exercise. All women who have gestational diabetes need to check their blood glucose level, and some will take insulin and oral medication if diet alone is not enough to control their blood sugars. However, there is no increased risk of stillbirth with gestational diabetes that is controlled with diet alone.
After giving birth, blood glucose levels in mothers with gestational diabetes are tested six weeks postpartum and yearly as a part of
routine health maintenance. Usually levels return to normal after delivery, but these women are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in the future. “Eating right and being active remain important to help prevent this from happening,” adds Dr. Trauffer.
Take a Tour of the Maternity Center
Prepare for your new arrival by taking a tour of Holy Redeemer’s Maternity Center. See our private suites, postpartum rooms, and the Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Tours are conducted every Saturday at 10 a.m. Please call 215-938-2928 one hour before to ensure that an empty suite is available.
To learn more about our Maternity Center or to find an obstetrician, visit holyredeemer.com/maternity.