Gestational Diabetes – Causes, Risk factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

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(Diabetes, gestational diabetes, gestational diabetes mellitus [GDM], diabetes mellitus with onset in pregnancy [GOGM], glucose intolerance during pregnancy)

What is Gestational Diabetes

Glucose is generated from the breakdown of food. It is the body’s energy source. It can pass from the blood to the cells through a hormone called insulin. Without insulin, glucose builds up in the blood. This condition is called hyperglycemia. At the same time, the cells of the body lack glucose (energy).

When this happens during pregnancy, it is called gestational diabetes. Additional glucose in the blood can pass to the baby. This condition can cause problems for the mother and the baby.

Causes of Gestational Diabetes

The exact cause is unknown. But these factors can contribute to the condition:

  1. The hormones necessary for the growth of the baby interfere with insulin
  2. Excess weight increases insulin resistance
  3. Insulin resistance prevents the body from using insulin effectively

Risk factors of Gestational Diabetes

These factors increase the likelihood of developing this condition:

  • Obesity or overweight
  • Family members with diabetes
  • Age: 25 years or older
  • Race: African-American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian American, Indigenous Australian or Pacific Islander
  • Gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • Previous delivery of a large baby
  • Birth of a dead baby or previous pregnancy with too much fluid around it
  • Glucose in the urine

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

This condition may not show symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Increased need to urinate
  • Thirst
  • Hungry
  • Recurrent vaginal or urinary tract infections
  • Weakness

Diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes

Your risk

If you have a high risk, you probably need a glucose measurement as soon as possible. If the initial measurement is negative, a second measurement should be made between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation.

If you present an average risk, you will undergo a glucose measurement of 50 grams (see below). It is performed between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation.

If you have a low risk, you will not need a glucose measurement. For the risk to be considered low, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be less than 25 years old
  • Have a normal weight before and during pregnancy
  • Being a member of an ethnic group with a low risk of gestational diabetes
  • Not having parents or siblings with a history of diabetes
  • No history of abnormal glucose tolerance
  • No history of unsatisfactory pregnancy outcomes

Detection test

This implies:

  • Drink liquid with a large amount of sugar
  • Take a blood sample one hour after measuring the glucose level
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In some cases, you can have a urine glucose measurement. These are not as reliable as blood tests.

Diagnostic test

This implies:

  • A three-hour glucose tolerance test if the initial screening test yields a blood sugar level that is higher than normal
  • Glucose control in the morning and after meals

Treatment of Gestational Diabetes

The goal of treatment is to return glucose levels to normal parameters. The treatment includes:

Diet for Gestational Diabetes

  • Maintain a balanced diet.
  • Eat lots of vegetables and fiber.
  • Limit the amount of fat you consume. Avoid foods with high sugar content.
  • Eat moderate portions of food at each meal.
  • Eat a sandwich when going to sleep with proteins and foods that contain starch.
  • Do not increase more weight than recommended during pregnancy. Increasing too much weight can increase the risk of having:
  • A baby with high birth weight
  • A delivery before term
  • Cesarean delivery

Keep a record of the foods you eat. Share this information with the doctor.

Exercise for Gestational Diabetes

Physical activity helps the body use glucose. The insulin that you produce will be more effective. Ask your doctor about an exercise routine.

Measurement of blood sugar

Use a detector to control glucose levels. Show the doctor the results of the prenatal visits.


If you have made lifestyle changes and your glucose levels are still above normal, you should probably inject insulin every day.


After giving birth, glucose levels usually return to normal. You will need a glucose tolerance test between six and eight weeks after delivery. Exercising, breastfeeding and losing weight will help reduce the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.

Prevention of Gestational Diabetes

The following tips can help prevent this condition:

  1. Increase a normal weight during pregnancy.
  2. Eat a healthy diet
  3. Exercise regularly. Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

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