Health Library

Categories > Pregnancy and Childbirth > Pregnancy complications

Understanding gestational diabetes

Some women who never had diabetes develop it in the later stages of pregnancy. While the condition generally does not affect Mom, it can affect her baby. Here are answers to some questions you may have about this condition.

Q. How can I tell if I have gestational diabetes?

A. Because the symptoms of gestational diabetes, such as fatigue, excessive thirst and frequent urination, are subtle, glucose tolerance testing is the best way to detect the problem. Expect to be tested around the 26th week of pregnancy.

Q. What happens if I have it?

A. You will have to try to control your blood-sugar level by eating well-planned meals, exercising and monitoring your glucose levels regularly.

Q. Will I need medication?

A. If you are not able to regulate blood-sugar levels through diet and exercise alone, you may have to inject insulin daily. Injected insulin does not cross the placenta and therefore does not affect your baby.

Q. What are the risks to my baby?

A. If gestational diabetes is not treated, a baby has a higher risk of being stillborn or dying as a newborn. Babies of mothers with gestational diabetes may also grow excessively large, a condition known as macrosomia. For this reason, cesarean sections are more common in mothers with the condition. Babies may also experience hypoglycemia shortly after birth.

Q. What about the long term?

A. After pregnancy, 5 percent to 10 percent of women with gestational diabetes will continue to have Type 2, or adult-onset, diabetes. And 20 percent to 50 percent will be diagnosed with the disease later in life. Babies born to women with gestational diabetes, while not at increased risk for type 1, or insulin-dependent, diabetes, are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes and obesity during childhood and adolescence.