Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that is first diagnosed in a pregnant woman. Out of every 100 pregnant women in the U.S., two to ten will have gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after pregnancy, but if it does not go away, it is known as type 2 diabetes. Many women who have had gestational diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes later.
How can diabetes affect my baby’s health?
Blood sugar that remains high in a woman with gestational diabetes can cause her baby to grow very large (about 9 pounds or more). Being very large makes it hard for the baby to be born through the birth canal and can cause nerve damage to the baby’s shoulder during birth. A very large baby has an increased chance of being overweight or obese later in life. Being overweight or obese increases the chance of also having diabetes later in life.
Blood sugar that remains high in a pregnant woman with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can cause her baby to have the following health problems:
- • Birth defects, especially of the brain, spine, and heart
- • Increased birth weight
- • Nerve damage to the shoulder during delivery
- • Low blood sugar after birth
- • Increased chance of overweight, obesity, and/or diabetes later in life
What can be done to prevent health problems related to diabetes during pregnancy?
- • Plan your pregnancy. If you have diabetes, it is very important for you to get your body ready before you get pregnant. If you are already pregnant, see your doctor right away.
- • See your doctor. Your doctor needs to look at the effects that diabetes has had on your body already, talk with you about getting and keeping control of your blood sugar, change medications if needed, and plan for frequent follow up.
- • Monitor your blood sugar often. Pregnancy affects your blood sugar control. You will probably need to check your blood sugar more often than when you are not pregnant. Talk with your doctor about how often to check your blood sugar.
- • Take your medications on time. If medications are ordered by a doctor, take them as directed.
- • Control and treat low blood sugar quickly. Having tight blood sugar control can lead to a chance of low blood sugar at times. Keep a ready source of sugar, such as glucose tablets or gel or hard candy, on hand at all times. Talk with your doctor about how to treat low blood sugar.
- • Follow up with the doctor regularly. You will need to see your doctor more often than a pregnant woman without diabetes. Together, you can work with your doctor to prevent or catch problems early.
- • If you had gestational diabetes, talk with your doctor about getting your blood sugar checked after delivery and every 1 – 3 years. About half of all women who had gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes later.
Family and Friends
- • Be supportive
- • Encourage healthy eating and regular exercise
- • Exercise together
- • Assist with daily activities to free up time for exercise
Health Care Provider
- • Be encouraging
- • Provide easy to read materials to reinforce your instructions
- • Encourage continued healthy eating and regular exercise after pregnancy
- • Follow through on testing women with gestational diabetes post-delivery and every one to three years