Up to 14 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes. What does it mean – and what can you do about it?

Women's Health, Your Health | 3 years ago

Gestational Diabetes: Who's at Risk?

Up to 14 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes. What does it mean – and what can you do about it?

Editor’s Note: This is a shortened version of an article featured in Atrium Health’s “Your Guide to Pregnancy & Motherhood.” To read more, get your free copy of the guide!

Gestational diabetes is one of the more common pregnancy complications, affecting up to 14 percent of women in the United States.

Michael Keeley, MD, an OB/GYN at Atrium Health Shelby Women’s Care, gives some insight into gestational diabetes and how you can deal if you’re diagnosed.

Knowing If You’re at Risk

The truth is, no one really knows exactly why some women get gestational diabetes and others don’t. “Anyone can get gestational diabetes – even women without risk factors,” says Dr. Keeley. “And usually, there are no symptoms.”

In the rare case that symptoms do appear, some pregnant women might experience fatigue, frequent urination and excessive thirst as a result of gestational diabetes.

Though there’s still much to learn about the ways of gestational diabetes, certain factors can put you at greater risk, including family history, age, weight and if you had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy.

Understanding the Diagnosis

Complications in pregnancy are scary. But even if you’re diagnosed with gestational diabetes, the chances of it harming your body are minimal.

According to Dr. Keeley, the most common impact gestational diabetes might have on your baby is macrosomia, a term that describes a larger-than-average newborn. If your baby does experience macrosomia or any other condition related to gestational diabetes, your doctor might recommend a C-section or induced labor to keep you and your baby safe and healthy.

Dr. Keeley says staying active and sticking to a low sugar, low carb diet can help you manage gestational diabetes.

If you are diagnosed, frequent visits to your doctor will be necessary to make sure you and your baby are doing well. Your doctor might also ask you to monitor your glucose levels at home with finger pricks and daily tests. And in some cases, your doctor might refer you to experts who specialize in the management of diabetes, including a diabetic educator and dietitian.

Life After Delivery

Although gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, you’ll likely be tested again after delivery to make sure. “Gestational diabetes can put you at a higher risk of developing adult onset diabetes – or Type 2 diabetes – after pregnancy,” says Dr. Keeley.

Because gestational diabetes can occur without risk factors, it can’t always be prevented. But Dr. Keeley says there are certain things you can do to reduce your risk, like having a healthy, balanced diet, staying active and maintaining a healthy weight. Pregnancy, he adds, is like training for an athletic event. “Moms need to eat healthy and exercise to train for a healthy baby and a normal delivery,” explains Dr. Keeley.

Whether it’s gestational diabetes or something else, never hesitate to bring any questions or concerns to your care team – they’re your guides to a healthy, happy pregnancy. As Dr. Keeley says, “We’re your coaches as much as your doctors.”

Like this article? Want to see more like it? Get a free copy of Atrium Health’s “Your Guide to Pregnancy & Motherhood”!