What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational Diabetes: What Is It?

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that some women get during pregnancy.

You treat it by making certain eating changes, exercising, checking blood sugar levels, and possibly taking diabetes medicine or insulin shots. With treatment, most women who have gestational diabetes will have healthy babies.

Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born.

What are the symptoms of gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes may not cause symptoms, so you need to be tested for it. You may have symptoms such as being very thirsty or having blurred vision.

How is gestational diabetes treated?

Managing your blood sugar is the key to preventing problems during pregnancy, birth, and after your baby is born. You may be able to manage your blood sugar with a healthy diet and regular exercise. You may also need to take diabetes medicine or give yourself insulin shots.

What can you do to prevent gestational diabetes?

Sometimes gestational diabetes can't be prevented. But you may lower your risk if you stay at a healthy weight and don't gain too much weight during pregnancy. Healthy eating and regular exercise can also help keep your blood sugar level in a safe range. This can help prevent gestational diabetes.

How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?

The oral glucose tolerance test is used to diagnose the condition. You may get this screening test for gestational diabetes between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy.

How to use an insulin pen when you're pregnant

  1. Know which type of insulin pen you're using.
    Insulin pen parts, including needle, inner and outer needle caps, pen cap, insulin reservoir, dosage window, dosage knob, and injection button.

    Insulin pens are either reusable or disposable. For a reusable pen, you put the insulin cartridge into the pen. Disposable pens already have an insulin cartridge. Before using cloudy insulin, such as NPH and premixed insulin, gently roll the pen between your palms 10 times. Then tip the pen up and down 10 times. Do not shake the pen. The insulin should look milky white.

  2. Attach the needle to the insulin pen.

    Follow the directions for how to screw a new needle onto your pen. Remove the outer cap from the needle. Keep this outer cap. You will use it later to safely dispose of the needle. Remove the inner cover from the needle. Be careful not to poke yourself.

  3. Prime the needle.

    Before each shot, prime the needle. Priming removes air from the needle and helps make sure you're getting the right dose.

    Turn the dose knob to 2 units or to the amount that your pen's manufacturer recommends. Hold your pen with the needle pointing up. Tap the cartridge holder gently to move any air bubbles to the top.

    Push the injection button all the way in. Watch for a stream or drop of insulin to come out of the needle. If it doesn't, repeat this step.

  4. Pick a spot.

    Make sure the area of skin where you will give the shot is clean. If you use alcohol to clean the skin before you give the injection, let it dry.

    In your third trimester, find a spot on the side of your stomach where you can pinch the skin.

    Or use the thigh, upper arm, or upper buttock.

    Use a different spot each time you inject insulin. Using the same spot every time can cause bumps or pits to form in your skin.

    For example, inject your insulin above your belly button. Then the next time use your upper thigh, and then the next time inject below your belly button.

  5. Put it in.

    Turn the dose knob to the number of units of insulin that you need to inject.

    Push the needle into your skin. Most people can inject using a 90-degree angle and without pinching the skin.

  6. Inject and wait.

    Use your thumb to push the injection button until it stops. Keep the pen in your skin. Hold the dose knob in for 10 seconds (or to the number that the manufacturer recommends). Then pull the needle out of your skin. Do not rub the area.

  7. Recap the insulin pen.

    Put only the outer cap back over the needle. The thin, inner cover is harder to put back on, and you may poke yourself.

  8. Throw the needle away.

    After covering the needle with the outer cap, unscrew the needle and throw it away in a sharps container or other solid plastic container. You can get a sharps container at your drugstore.

    Don't share insulin pens with anyone else who uses insulin. Even when the needle is changed, an insulin pen can carry bacteria or blood that can make another person sick.

Managing gestational diabetes

These steps can help you keep your blood sugar in your target range and have a healthy pregnancy. They can also help you prevent diabetes after the birth.

  • Make healthy food choices.

    Eat plenty of lean protein, fruits, and vegetables. Follow your meal plan to know how much carbohydrate you need for meals and snacks.

  • Get regular exercise.

    Try low-impact activities, such as walking and swimming. Try to be active 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week.

    If you're increasing your activity, talk to your doctor before you start.

  • Check your blood sugar levels.

    Ask your doctor how often to test your blood sugar.

  • Get regular checkups.

    Your doctor will do tests to check on you and your baby. You'll talk about your blood sugar levels, eating and staying active, and how to manage pregnancy weight gain.

  • Take diabetes medicine or insulin shots if needed.

    This helps control your blood sugar if it can't be managed with healthy eating and regular exercise. Blood sugar can be harder to manage as you approach your due date.

What puts you at risk for gestational diabetes?

Many things can increase your chance of having gestational diabetes. For example, women who are older, overweight, have a family history of diabetes, or had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy are at a higher risk. Talk to your doctor about your risks.

Gestational Diabetes: Activity

Why is it important to check your blood sugar when you have gestational diabetes?

Checking your blood sugar helps you feel more in control of diabetes during pregnancy. It helps you treat low or high blood sugar before it becomes an emergency. It also helps you know how exercise and food affect your blood sugar.

What follow-up testing is done after you've had gestational diabetes?

You may have an oral glucose tolerance test 4 to 12 weeks after your baby is born or after you stop breastfeeding your baby. If the results are normal, get tested for diabetes at least every 3 years. Slightly high results may mean you need to be tested every year.

What causes gestational diabetes?

Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas. It helps your body use and store the sugar from the food you eat. This keeps your blood sugar level in a safe range.

During pregnancy, the placenta makes several other hormones. Some of these hormones make it hard for insulin to do its job. So your body needs to make more insulin. Gestational diabetes develops when your body can't make enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels in a safe range.

Is low blood sugar a problem for women with gestational diabetes?

Most women with gestational diabetes don't have a problem with low blood sugar. But you are at risk if you take insulin shots or some diabetes medicines. Low blood sugar can be caused by things like skipping meals, exercising more than usual, and taking too much insulin.

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar that is first diagnosed during pregnancy. High blood sugar can cause problems for you and your baby. With treatment and lifestyle changes, you can manage your blood sugar and have a healthy baby. Blood sugar levels often go back to normal after you give birth.

Gestational Diabetes: Reducing Risk

Gestational diabetes: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness), or you suddenly become very sleepy or confused. (You may have very low blood sugar.)
  • You have symptoms of high blood sugar, such as:
    • Trouble staying awake or being woken up.
    • Fast, deep breathing.
    • Breath that smells fruity.
    • Belly pain, not feeling hungry, and vomiting.
    • Feeling confused.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are sick and cannot control your blood sugar.
  • You have been vomiting or have had diarrhea for more than 6 hours.
  • Your blood sugar stays higher than the level your doctor has set for you.
  • You have symptoms of low blood sugar, such as:
    • Sweating.
    • Feeling nervous, shaky, and weak.
    • Extreme hunger and slight nausea.
    • Dizziness and headache.
    • Blurred vision.
    • Confusion.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have a hard time knowing when your blood sugar is low.
  • You have trouble keeping your blood sugar in the target range.
  • You often have problems controlling your blood sugar.

Eating for Gestational Diabetes

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