Gestational Diabetes: How Serious Is It?

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that is first diagnosed during pregnancy. This condition affects up to 14% of pregnancies.

Diabetes occurs when your body cannot produce the extra insulin needed for pregnancy. Insulin converts blood sugar into energy. During the second half of your pregnancy, your body requires extra insulin to meet the demands of you and your baby. If your body is unable to meet this demand, you may have an excess of sugar in your blood and this could cause the onset of gestational diabetes.

Am I at risk of gestational diabetes?
You are most likely to develop gestational diabetes if you:

  • are overweight
  • have previously had a large baby (4.5kg or more)
  • developed gestational diabetes in an earlier pregnancy
  • have a family history of diabetes

Symptoms and diagnosis
If you are at risk of developing gestational diabetes, you will be offered an oral glucose tolerance test. This test will be carried out between weeks 24 and 28 of the pregnancy. Blood tests are used to determine your blood sugar levels.

A dipstick test will be done at each antenatal appointment to test for sugar in your urine. If high levels of sugar are present, this can be indicative of gestational diabetes, and further testing will be carried out.

Gestational diabetes can often be asymptomatic. However, you may experience:

  • tiredness
  • excessive thirst
  • excessive urination
  • blurred vision

You can reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes by:

  • monitoring your weight gain
  • eating a healthy diet
  • continuing to exercise throughout the pregnancy
  • not smoking

Will gestational diabetes harm my baby?
This condition needs to be carefully controlled to avoid causing harm to your developing baby. If there are excessive levels of sugar in your blood, this could cross through the placenta and reach your baby. If this happens, there is a risk that your baby could grow large. Large babies can cause problems during the birth, and so if this happens you may be advised to have a planned caesarean section.

Gestational diabetes can also increase your baby’s risk of health problems such as jaundice and low blood sugar after the birth. Your baby’s blood sugar levels may be monitored after the birth.

Your baby will be more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in later life. By teaching your child about healthy eating, and ensuring he eats a balanced diet, you can reduce this risk.

Treatment for gestational diabetes
To manage gestational diabetes, you need to control your blood sugar levels. This can usually be done by:

  • eating a healthy diet
  • avoiding sugary foods and drinks
  • light exercise

You will be offered additional ultrasound scans to monitor your baby’s development later in the pregnancy. This is to check the baby’s growth and the amount of amniotic fluid present. You will probably be offered an scan every four weeks from week 28.

Up to 20% of sufferers cannot control their diabetes using the methods above. In this instance, you will be advised to either take medication or inject insulin to manage the condition.

Most women find that the diabetes disappears once the baby is born. You will be tested for diabetes at your postnatal check, and then again a year on. It is estimated that up to 20% of women diagnosed with gestational diabetes actually had undiagnosed diabetes prior to the pregnancy.

Written by Fiona, proud owner of a toddler, @fiona_peacock

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice.  All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.

Fiona PeacockGestational Diabetes: How Serious Is It?

Comments 6

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  2. Kirsten durant

    Very misleading this none of my family have gd and are bigger people im small been small the whole way through my pregnancy im also a very active person and barely eat sugar but still all over the place with sugar levels they want me to go on insulin. Also that part about bigger baby isnt the whole truth either my baby is very small shes only on the growth chart by 1 percent and she stop gaining good weight soon as they diagnosed me with gestational diabetes then i changed my whole diet and bub didnt even gain half a pound in 6 weeks my bub is 11 centile doctors said if she was 1 less they would be taking her out. I think the gd test we dont drink that much sugar in 1 hit so i dont get why they would make us do that

  3. Rebecca

    This is my 4th baby and first time with GD, it’s caused by the baby’s hormones blocking my insulin from working properly. I’m on metformin 3 times a day but recently my morning blood sugar levels are rising so they have decided to induce me at 38 weeks (16th Jan) to reduce the amount of insulin I’ll have to take next week. It’s been tough but nearly at the end. They are almost certain I won’t be left with diabetes after birth but it is a possibility. Good luck to all you ladies xx

  4. Marion

    I have to say I agree with Becky the information is misleading. I was also a size 8 before being pregnant. Have never been interested in sugary foods before or really during my pregnancy (although slightly more while pregnant) and also have no history of diabetes in my family. I am a vegetarian and did’t drink milk up until I was pregnant so do not have an unhealthy diat and get regular exercise walking my dogs. So when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes it was a huge shock. After being advised to stick to a strict diet cutting out all carbs, fruit, milk, any Sugary foods and drinking sugar free drinks my blood levels were still all over the place. I am now on matformine and they can still be a little iratic. So it really has absolutely nothing to do with diet in my case as the consultant has also informed me. Unfortunately it’s just that some women’s bodies can’t meet the demands of insulin needed during pregnancy it’s just unlucky I guess.

  5. Chalene Mahon

    I am on my second baby and my second time having gestational diabetes. I agree with the previous comment that dispite ur diet, if your going to get it, you will as its more hormone based. With my first pregnancy my sugar levels where completely uncontrollable. I was injecting myself 4 times a day and still not making a difference. I was losing weight and my baby wasnt growing well either. The dietitians and the diabetic team were at logger heads as the dietitians insisted i needed to consume more carbs and fatty foods but the diabetic team refuse to even listen to this. I was brought in for steriods and then at 36 weeks told i would be brought in to be monitored and started. Thankfully my little girl was born at a gd weight and needed no extra care but was a hard pregnancy. I worked hard to lose weight after and being a size 18 goin into my first pregnancy i was informed the best way to avoid it in any other pregnancies was to eat well and lose weight. I did. And it did not help. At 8 weeks pregnant i was diagnosed and back to injecting insulin. Im losing weight but this time baba is on 91st percentile.
    Moral of this is that everyones body will react in different ways to being pregnant. Try not to stress! And never feel guilty. I know now there is nothing i can do to stop the gestational diabetes but i can do my best to help with blood sugar levels and just relax and know im in God’s hands

  6. Becky

    This information is somewhat misleading. I eat healthily, exercise and am a size 8 and I have gestational diabetes. All the women in my family are the same, none had diabetes after birth and neither did the babies. It is not caused by eating sugar, it is the placenta. There is nothing you can do to avoid getting it as it is hormone related. When I was diagnosed I felt so guilty, that I had failed due to some misleading infirmation. After a lot of reading I saw there was nothing I could have done to stop it. I have managed to stay diet controlled and am predicted to have a baby on the 50th centile.