What You Need to Know About Gestational Diabetes

a pregnant woman taking her blood sugar to represent what you need to know about gestational diabetes

November is American Diabetes Month, which is why we wanted to spend a little extra time focusing on a condition that affects 7 out of every 100 pregnant women: gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes unique to pregnancy. It typically subsides after childbirth, but some studies have suggested that women who have had gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later on in life. In this blog, we’re answering some of the top questions about gestational diabetes, including the causes, risk factors, and methods to manage this condition. 

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who have elevated blood glucose levels during pregnancy, despite never having diabetes before. Elevated glucose levels in the blood occur when the body cannot make insulin or use it properly. Glucose is consumed from the foods we eat and serves as our body’s fuel source. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas and transports glucose from the blood to the cells. Without insulin, all of the glucose that would be transported to the cells ends up remaining in the blood, which, when left untreated, can lead to health problems for both mother and baby.

What Causes Gestational Diabetes?

While the exact causes of gestational diabetes are still unknown, some factors may contribute to gestational diabetes. Hormones from the placenta may make it more difficult for insulin to function properly. Carrying excess weight prior to pregnancy may also play a role in developing gestational diabetes. Other risk factors include having a first-degree relative member with diabetes, older maternal age, having PCOS, certain ethnicities such as being Hispanic, Native American, Asian, or African American, or having a previous baby with a weight of 9+ pounds. Unfortunately, researchers still haven’t been able to pinpoint what causes the onset of gestational diabetes in some women but not in others. 

How Does Gestational Diabetes Effect the Baby?

By working with healthcare professionals and following a treatment plan, most women with gestational diabetes can control their blood sugar and deliver healthy babies. Untreated or poorly controlled gestational diabetes may lead to health issues for the baby. When left untreated or poorly controlled excess blood glucose levels cross the placenta, passing along high blood glucose levels to the baby. In an effort to control these elevated blood glucose levels, the baby’s pancreas is forced to make more insulin to transport the glucose, which ends up in an excess amount of energy that has to be stored as fat. This can cause baby to gain too much weight. This increases the risk of a difficult delivery with possible birth trauma to mom or newborn or requiring a c-section. Poorly controlled gestational diabetes can lead to health issues for the newborn, including possible low blood sugar, breathing problems, heart issues, and jaundice. It also increases the baby’s risk for type 2 diabetes and obesity later in life. While gestational diabetes occurs during only pregnancy, if you already have type 1 or type 2 diabetes it is very important for you to have good blood sugar control prior to getting pregnant to reduce risks of birth defects or miscarriage. 

How Do You Know If You Have Gestational Diabetes? 

Screenings for gestational diabetes are typically administered at the 24 to 28 weeks mark of pregnancy. The diagnosis can be solidified through the use of an oral glucose tolerance test. Because gestational diabetes does not usually exhibit any symptoms, it’s important to stay up to date with your prenatal screenings and appointments. 

How Do You Manage Gestational Diabetes?

While healthy eating is crucial in every pregnancy, gestational diabetes emphasizes the importance of healthy food choices to keep blood sugar levels from getting too high. As a general rule of thumb, those with gestational diabetes should eat regularly to keep blood sugar levels consistent. Monitoring the baby’s growth and development, checking blood sugar levels, and staying active are key to maintaining a healthy pregnancy. The Triangle Physicians for Women providers are here for you to answer any questions you may have about gestational diabetes. We are also proud to offer nutrition services by a registered dietitian/certified diabetes care and education specialist who creates personalized meal plans for our patients with gestational diabetes.

Talk To An OB/GYN

The team at Triangle Physicians for Women is here for you in all stages of your life. If you have any questions about gestational diabetes or nutrition during pregnancy, please reach out. If you would like to schedule an appointment with Triangle Physicians for Women, you may do so by calling (919) 678-6900 or requesting an appointment electronically under the Contact Us tab.

Dr. Pearce was attentive, listened well, and provided a comfortable experience for me. My recent vaginal exams have been very uncomfortable and she provided a very comfortable exam this time.

Dr. Pearce was AMAZING! She answered all my questions and didn’t make me feel rushed. Best experience I’ve had at Triangle yet! She really put my worried first-time mom mind at ease.

I think Dr. Grana and her assistant (Mandy) are the best. I have been going to TP4W for years – at least 20, and I have never been disappointed with the level of care I have received. I can be a challenge as my level for pain tolerance is low and they put up with me! I can’t help but highly recommend the practice to anyone looking for exemplary women’s healthcare.

Love love love Dr. Grana and her crew. Love going to Holly Springs office. The girls are the best from Lisa at the front desk to all the girls in the back. Your music and atmosphere is great. Thanks for making these appointments fun!! Yes believe it or not, fun!!!

Dr V and the office staff were all very professional, understanding, caring and very efficient. I would be happy to recommend this practice to friends, family and associates. – Barbara M. Lucas

My visit was great! & my past visit have all been great.Kristy helped me even with me being a bit stressed & in a hurry because I had to be seen & my job is super strict. Her urgency to get me seen was phenomenal. I even got to see Heather, she’s awesome & amazing. She helped deliver my baby girl a year ago. My whole family loves her and Dr Sheshadri. We actually can’t wait to get pregnant again hahaha. Everyone treats you with respect and always makes sure your okay & answers whatever questions you have before you leave. Even leaving a message for the nurses,they get back to you so quickly.  This practice really makes you feel taken care of.  We appreciate you all!  – Erika Hooks

My experience with the TP4W staff has been top of the line.  They helped me through three pregnancies and coached me through every step of the way.  Eternally thankful I chose TP4W.  – Britney

TP4W have such amazing doctors, midwives and nurses.  I cannot say enough about Dr. Grana and the rest of the staff for all the help, advice, guidance and medical care they provided me with all of my kids.  She made me feel safe and calm through both c-sections.  My routine care and pregnancy care have always been top notch and I would recommend them to anyone looking for an OBGYN.  – Brooke

We were honored to receive a hand written note..

Dr. Grana, Angie, Jessica, Heather, April, Sarah and the rest of the staff –

Thank you all so much for taking such good care of me through both of my pregnancies and births, especially my latest one on 10/29! most of yall know how nervous I was from having gone through a lot (to say the least) with my first in 2016. You all made me feel so comfortable and at ease before, during and after. And going through a touch year with my dad, you guys always asked how he was doing at every appointment, which was so thoughtful and beyond your job description. I know that you all see many women go through what i did each and every day and deliver many babies and perform many c-sections. But I hope you know how special Ruby’s delivery was to me. You all have amazing jobs! I cannot thank you all enough. Merry Christmas!

Love, Lucy

I have been going to TP4W since 2010/11 and could not be happier.

The staff, nurses, midwives, and doctors are all amazing. I have 2 sons, both delivered via cesarean by Dr. V. Every visit and every provider did everything in their power to give me the birth experience I wanted, and also ensure that myself and my babies were safe and healthy. Dr. V even did everything in his power to help me avoid my first c-section and VBAC with the second, but that turned out to be out of his hands and he was the absolute best surgeon. With my two pregnancies, I experienced a few scares and some unusual circumstances that would be too long and too private to write in a review, but every single hurdle was handled with grace, honesty, and professionalism. I am so thankful for the recommendation from a friend to come to this office. I can’t imagine ever going to another practice.