Gestational diabetes, or diabetes during pregnancy, is characterised by higher than normal sugar in your blood during pregnancy. It can be detected by screening when you are between 24-28 weeks pregnant. The test for gestational diabetes is called the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) after the sweet drink your blood will be tested to see how it coped with the sugar in the blood.
It occurs in 3-5% of all pregnancies and carries a risk both for mother and baby. Gestational diabetes in the mother can lead to your baby growing very big and sometimes if your baby is measuring big you will be tested for gestational diabetes immediately.
For some women, gestational diabetes is just something they just get and nobody’s really sure why, but for others, it can be linked to excessive weight gain during pregnancy or poor diet during pregnancy. It’s also thought to be caused by a variety of hormones produced by the placenta, which weaken the insulin action in your body. As you approach the third trimester and the levels of these hormones increase, the blood sugar levels in your body can rise. If your pancreas isn’t producing enough insulin to counteract these higher levels, you might end up getting gestational diabetes.
You are more likely to get gestational diabetes if you are overweight and/or over thirty.
Since many of these symptoms can be mistaken for pregnancy alone, a blood sugar screen test helps to pick up cases.
In order to minimise your chances of getting gestational diabetes, stick to a diet that’s high in fruit and vegetables and whole grains, and low in foods and drinks that are high in sugar.
Additionally, if you do get diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you want to choose foods that have a low glycemic index such as wholemeal bread, pasta and other foods that are high in fibre, and avoid sugary drinks and foods.
In most women with gestational diabetes, their blood sugar levels return to normal after the birth. However, there is an increased likelihood of developing Type 2 Diabetes in the future, so you should be tested for this 6-8 weeks after your baby is born and for prediabetes every 3 years after having your baby. Again, if you have gestational diabetes in one pregnancy, the chances are higher you’ll have it in any subsequent pregnancies as well.