Pregnant women who have never had diabetes before but who have high blood sugar (glucose) levels during pregnancy are said to have gestational diabetes.
Is gestational diabetes serious?
Gestational diabetes can be serious if it is not controlled. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, but in some women, the diabetes persists. It is important that a doctor checks the mother's blood sugar 6 weeks after the baby is born.
Once a woman has had gestational diabetes, her chances are very high (2 in 3) that she will get it again if she becomes pregnant again. Also, many women with gestational diabetes develop chronic diabetes later in life.
Chronic diabetes is a serious disease that can affect the heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves, and feet. Children of women who have had gestational diabetes may also be at higher risk for gaining too much weight or getting diabetes in their teenage years.
If I am pregnant, how do I know if I have gestational diabetes?
Most doctors and midwives will screen women for gestational diabetes at 24-28 weeks. This screening involves taking a blood test for sugar before eating in the morning, then drinking 50-grams of a pure sugar drink, and having your sugar tested again.
If I have gestational diabetes, what can I do to stay healthy after pregnancy?
To stay healthy after pregnancy and reduce your risk of developing chronic diabetes later in life:
- Get more physical activity: Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as a brisk walk) at least 5 days per week can help prevent diabetes. Walk as much as you can. Even if you don't lose weight, regular physical activity will make you healthier.
- Make healthy food choices: Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, including non-diet soda. Eat smaller portions.
- Breast-feed your child: Breast-feeding will help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight, and breast-fed infants have lower rates of childhood obesity. Breast feeding also reduces the risk of a mother developing diabetes later on in life.
- Lose weight: If you are overweight, losing even a few pounds can help you prevent diabetes.
- Set healthy examples for your child: Offer healthy food choices and opportunities to be physically active. Discourage eating in front of the TV, and limit TV, video, and computer games that keep your child from moving. See tips for parents (PDF).
- Have a regular doctor for you and your new baby. If you don’t have a doctor, call 311 for help getting one.
- Call 311 and ask for information and resources about gestational diabetes or where you can get tested.
- Call the American Diabetes Association (1-888-DIABETES) [1-888-342-2383]; or visit their website at www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/gestational/.