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What it is

A form of diabetes in which the body doesn't produce enough insulin to control blood sugar during pregnancy. As a result, women have higher than normal blood sugar (glucose) levels.  Also, the baby may be large at birth, frequently over 9 pounds.

Gestational diabetes, which affects 7-9% of pregnancies, usually starts around the 24th week of pregnancy, which is why a blood sugar test is often done between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. If you develop diabetes during pregnancy, careful blood sugar monitoring, diet, exercise and taking insulin, if needed, are important.

Why the concern

In most cases, this type of diabetes returns to pre-pregnancy blood sugar levels soon after childbirth. But having it at all heightens your risk for type 2, or adult onset, diabetes later in life. In fact, about half of all women who had pregnancy-related diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Prevention.

Diabetes at any age makes heart disease more likely. Experts say that even if you don't develop diabetes at some point after your delivery, a history of gestational diabetes still puts you at risk of heart disease. It can also damage some organs (for example, your heart, kidneys, nerves or eyes) by causing changes to the blood vessels that supply them. Yet most women are not followed for this condition after pregnancy.

It's important to follow up with your health visits and pay close attention to blood sugar, weight, diet, lifestyle and cardiovascular risk factors.

What you can do

  • Make sure all your doctors know that you had diabetes during pregnancy and that it is noted in your health history.
  • The American Diabetes Association recommends testing again for diabetes at 6-12 weeks postpartum; if your blood sugar level is normal, remind your doctor to check your blood sugar every one to three years to ensure it is detected early.
  • Talk with your care team about ways to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes through exercise, eating a healthy diet and taking medications, if needed.
  • Ask about other heart disease risk factors and how to prevent or manage them.
Only 1 in 5 women who had gestational diabetes were tested again within six months of pregnancy to find out if they had diabetes, according to a study. Ask to have your blood sugar level re-checked.
  • Last Edited 03/11/2021