Gestational diabetes usually goes away after you give birth. But if you have it in one pregnancy, you’re more likely to have it in your next pregnancy. You’re also more likely to develop diabetes later in life. Being active, eating healthy foods that are low in sugar and losing weight may help reduce your chances of developing diabetes later in life.
Can gestational diabetes cause problems during pregnancy?
Most of the time gestational diabetes can be controlled and treated during pregnancy to protect both mom and baby. If untreated, though, it can cause serious health problems for you and your baby. If gestational diabetes is left untreated, your baby is more likely to:
- Be born very large. Large babies can get hurt during vaginal birth. You may need to have a cesarean section (c-section) to keep your baby safe. A c-section is surgery in which your baby is born through a cut that your doctor makes in your belly and uterus (womb).
- Have birth defects. A birth defect is a health condition that is present at birth. Birth defects change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. They can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops, or in how the body works.
- Have health complications after birth, including breathing problems, low blood sugar and jaundice. Jaundice is a medical condition in which a baby's eyes and skin look yellow. A baby has jaundice when his liver isn't fully developed or isn't working well.
- Be stillborn. This is death of a baby in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy but before birth.
Who is more likely to have gestational diabetes?
You may be more likely than other women to develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy if:
- You’re 30 years old or older.
- You’re overweight or you gained a lot of weight during pregnancy.
- You have a family history of diabetes. This means that one or more of your family members has diabetes.
- You’re African-American, Native American, Asian, Hispanic or Pacific Islander. These ethnic groups are more likely to have gestational diabetes than other groups.
- You had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy.
- In your last pregnancy, you gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 1/2 pounds or was stillborn.
Even women without any of these risk factors can develop gestational diabetes. This is why health care providers test you during pregnancy to see if you have this condition.
How do you know if you have gestational diabetes?
Your health care provider tests you for gestational diabetes with a prenatal test called a glucose tolerance test. You get the test at 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. Your provider may give you the test earlier if he thinks you’re likely to develop gestational diabetes.
If you do have gestational diabetes, eating healthy foods and being physically active may be enough to control your blood sugar levels. Women with gestational diabetes may need to check their blood sugar several times a day. You can do this with a special finger-stick device. Some women with gestational diabetes need treatment with medicine or insulin shots. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body control its blood sugar level.
Last reviewed October 2012