All About Gestational Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Board Certified Obstetrician & Gynecologist located in North Reading, MA

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All About Gestational Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

If you’re pregnant, read this. November is American Diabetes Month and a great time to spread awareness, but there are more than two types of diabetes. Gestational diabetes affects millions of moms-to-be and their babies. Here’s what you should know.

Pregnancy is a beautiful journey filled with joy, anticipation, and sometimes a few unexpected bumps along the way. One such hurdle can be gestational diabetes — a potentially life-threatening condition affecting 2%-10% of moms-to-be yearly. 

November is American Diabetes Month, which makes this an excellent time to explore this lesser-known diabetes type so you can recognize the signs and act quickly.

At Nova Women’s Health, board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Anju Nayar and our team believe in empowering you with the knowledge you need to navigate pregnancy challenges. Here, we delve into understanding what gestational diabetes is, its causes and symptoms, how it affects you and your baby, and how we treat it.

Gestational diabetes defined

Most people are familiar with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, but there’s also a version that only affects pregnant women — gestational diabetes. It occurs when your body can’t make enough insulin — a hormone that regulates blood sugar — to meet the extra needs of pregnancy, causing high blood sugar levels.

Risk factors and causes of gestational diabetes

The exact cause of this type of diabetes is unknown, but several factors can increase your risk:

  • Age: Women over 25 years have a higher risk
  • Health history: Your risk increases if you have prediabetes or if a close family member has Type 2 diabetes
  • Weight: Being overweight before pregnancy raises your risk
  • Race: Certain ethnic groups, including African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and Asian Americans, have a higher risk

While most of these are beyond your control, it’s important to be aware of them and take steps to protect your health during pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes symptoms and diagnosis

Most women with gestational diabetes don't have any symptoms. However, some may experience increased thirst and urination. We usually discover the condition during routine blood sugar tests between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy.

We include gestational diabetes and other critical tests in our comprehensive prenatal care services.

Minimizing the impact of gestational diabetes on you and your baby

Managing gestational diabetes is crucial for the health of both mother and baby. If you have gestational diabetes, we monitor your blood sugar levels and encourage you to follow a healthy diet and get regular exercise. Sometimes, medication or insulin injections become necessary.

Uncontrolled gestational diabetes can lead to serious complications. For example, gestational diabetes increases your likelihood of developing high blood pressure and preeclampsia as well as increasing the need for cesarean delivery. 

For your baby, it can lead to excessive birth weight, early birth, respiratory distress syndrome, and Type 2 diabetes later in life.

Gestational diabetes prevention and latest research

While you can't always prevent gestational diabetes, adopting a healthy lifestyle before and during pregnancy can reduce your risk. This means maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and balancing your diet.

Researchers are investigating the potential benefits of metformin, a medication typically used to treat Type 2 diabetes, in managing gestational diabetes and lowering your risk of developing type two diabetes later in life. A 2021 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reported that pregnant women with gestational diabetes treated with metformin:

  • Had fewer hypoglycemic episodes
  • Gained less weight
  • Required labor inductions less frequently
  • Had fewer cesarean sections

Although most women with gestational diabetes come through pregnancy and delivery without a hitch, the success stories typically involve an experienced obstetrician like Dr. Nayar. 

Protect your baby and yourself from gestational diabetes by partnering with Nova Women’s Health. Book online or call us to schedule an obstetric care appointment.