Typically diagnosed in the last half of pregnancy, gestational diabetes can occur as early at 20 weeks. Blood sugar levels can be controlled through eating a balanced diet, exercising, healthy weight before and during pregnancy, monitoring blood sugar levels if needed, and possibly taking medication if blood sugar levels are still uncontrolled.
While the exact cause of gestational diabetes is not known, there are a few things that put a woman a higher risk:
- Excess weight (BMI >30)
- Non-Caucasian race
- 25 years or older
- Diagnosed with PCOS
- Family and personal health history including prediabetic, family or personal history of diabetes or gestational diabetes, previous baby weighing 9 lbs or more at birth.
Possible infant complications of gestational diabetes:
- Polyhydramnios: a condition of too much fluid surrounding the baby or in the baby’s amniotic sac during pregnancy. This can be caused by diabetes; however, other factors may cause polyhydramnios too.
- Excess birth weight: the extra glucose in mom’s diet can cross into the placenta and causes the infant’s pancreas to make extra insulin which can lead to a heavy birth weight. Infants weighing 9 lbs or more have a high risk of C-section or obtaining injuries during birth.
- Low blood sugar after delivery which may result in extra monitoring and possible supplemental formula feeding.
- Preterm birth: birth happening before 37 weeks is more common due to higher risk of planned C-section as well as increased risk of early labor.
- Respiratory distress syndrome: due to the increased risk of preterm birth, infants are at higher risk of having immature lungs and experiencing respiratory distress syndrome. This makes it difficult for the baby to breathe. Unfortunately, infants born of mothers with gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of respiratory distress syndrome regardless of date of birth.
If you are admitted to the antepartum unit for gestational diabetes, the goals are to monitor and control blood sugar, educate patient and provide diabetic-friendly diet, adjust medication levels if needed, and treat any secondary conditions caused or related to diabetes.
Ashlee Fleck received her Bachelor of Science in both Health and Nursing. She has worked in both Labor and Delivery and the Antepartum Unit. Ashley is passionate about creating healthy moms and a healthy babies and believes that knowledge is a huge influence in achieving that goal.
Edited by Kelly Riechers DiCristina