What is it? Gestational diabetes is the onset of diabetes during pregnancy in a woman who didn't have the condition before. With this type of diabetes, your body resists the effects of insulin, a hormone that controls the level of sugar (glucose) in your blood. Gestational diabetes is thought to result from metabolic changes brought about by one of the hormones produced by the placenta.
What are the symptoms? Sometimes there are none, but you may experience:
- Excessive hunger and thirst
- Frequent urination
- Recurrent vaginal yeast infections
Then again, you may have some or all of these signs and not have gestational diabetes.
How is it diagnosed? Between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy, you'll take a glucose loading test to screen for the condition. This entails slugging down a sweetened solution and getting your blood drawn an hour later. If your tests reveal abnormal blood glucose levels, you'll need a follow-up exam, called an oral three-hour glucose tolerance test. For this one, you'll fast overnight and then drink an even sweeter solution. Your blood will then be drawn at fasting and three times over a 3-hour period to measure your glucose levels.
Who's at risk? Almost 50% of the women who get gestational diabetes have no risk factors. The other 50% are more susceptible due to preexisting factors. Women who get pregnant after age 30 are at a higher risk than younger women. If diabetes runs in your family, you have an increased risk of getting it during pregnancy. Being overweight also increases your risk. Other factors that increase your risk include having a previous pregnancy and:
- Given birth to a large infant
- Given birth to a baby with a birth defect
- Had a stillborn delivery