Approximately 18% of pregnant women in the United States will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Registered Dietitian Jennifer Ropp answers some questions about this condition that has no warning signs or symptoms.
Q: What is the definition of gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes (GDM) is when a woman's blood sugars are too high when she is pregnant, and she has not had high blood sugars before.
Q:What causes gestational diabetes?
In all women, the hormones of pregnancy prevent insulin (also a hormone) from working the way that it is supposed to. In some women though, their insulin doesn't work well enough to keep their blood sugar's normal while they are pregnant.
Q: Are there any signs or symptoms?
There are usually no signs or symptoms for GDM, laboratory testing is the only way to know you have GDM.
Q: What percentage of pregnant women will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes?
Approximately 7% of pregnant women in the US will be diagnosed with GDM.
Q: How is gestational diabetes treated?
GDM is often treated with changes in diet and exercise and sometimes medication is necessary such as insulin. Working with a diabetes education team will help you make sure you are doing the right things for you and your baby if you have GDM.
Q: What happens if it's left untreated?
The risks of GDM to the baby include large size at birth which can cause difficulties in delivery, increased risk for low blood sugar after delivery, jaundice, respiratory distress syndrome, and increased risk for diabetes later in life.
Q: Can diet and exercise help prevent gestational diabetes?
Staying active with a regular routine of exercise such as walking, and eating a healthy diet that is not too high in calories and carbohydrates (sugars and starches) during pregnancy can lessen, but not eliminate, the chance of GDM.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
Most women with GDM give birth to healthy babies, especially when they keep their blood sugar under control, eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight. It is important to follow your medical team's recommendations if you find out you have GDM.
Jen Ropp has been a Registered Dietitian at Rockwood Clinic since 2006. She is also a Certified Diabetes Educator and is the Program Coordinator of Diabetes Education and Nutrition at Rockwood.