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What is gestational diabetes?

Glucose test for gestational diabetes

Approximately 6-7 percent of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes, so many physicians will routinely screen for this condition between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes occurs because the placenta produces a hormone called human placental lactogen that interferes with insulin’s ability to lower blood glucose levels.

Women at risk for gestational diabetes include:

  • Women over the age of 25
  • Women with a family history of diabetes
  • Women carrying excess weight
  • Women who are black, Hispanic, Asian or American Indian
  • Why are we concerned about gestational diabetes?

All the extra blood sugar in the mother can lead to high birth weights in babies which increases the mother’s risk of having a Cesarean birth, trouble with delivering a large baby, and preeclampsia. The baby may be more likely to have low blood sugar or jaundice and could have respiratory distress.

The screening involves having the patient drink 50 grams of glucose (sugar) one hour prior to having a blood test which will check blood sugar levels.

If that blood test shows the woman’s blood sugar levels are too high, her physician will likely order a three-hour glucose tolerance test. Prior to this test, fasting will be necessary. During this test, the blood sugar level will be measured. The patient will then drink a liquid with a concentration of 100 grams of glucose. After drinking the glucose, the patient’s blood sugar levels will be tested once an hour for three hours.

If two of those readings of blood sugar levels come back high, the patient is diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

Once the diagnosis has been made, your physician will likely have you alter your diet and your blood sugar will be tested more frequently.

If those measures to control the symptoms of diabetes aren’t successful, some women may have to use insulin during their pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes typically resolves itself once your pregnancy has completed, but women who have had the condition are more likely to have it recur in future pregnancies.

About Arthur Windholz MD