Pregnancy and you blog

Blog: Gestational diabetes — some explanations

By Mary M. Murry, R.N., C.N.M. September 24, 2009

I'm looking forward to becoming a grandmother for the first time, likely in January. My daughter isn't always enjoying her pregnancy, but she's deeply in love with her baby. Last week, she was scheduled for her gestational diabetes test — often referred to as a glucose challenge test. She had read about it but still had some questions. I thought this would be a good place to answer them since you may have similar questions.

During pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones that interfere with insulin. If insulin can't get into your cells, your blood sugar level will rise. If your body isn't able to produce enough insulin to control your blood sugar level, you may develop gestational diabetes.

Some health care providers screen all pregnant women for gestational diabetes. Others screen only women who have specific risk factors — such as being older than age 25, being overweight, having a personal or family history of diabetes, having given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds (4 kilograms), or being a member of certain ethnic groups.

The glucose challenge test is usually done between weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy. The test itself isn't too bad. You'll begin by drinking a syrupy glucose solution. One hour later, you'll have a blood test to measure your blood sugar level. If your blood sugar level is higher than normal, you may need a different type of follow-up glucose challenge test.

If you're diagnosed with gestational diabetes, diet and exercise become especially important. You'll get a glucose meter and learn how to check your blood sugar level, and your health care provider might recommend consulting a registered dietitian for help developing a meal plan. If diet and exercise aren't enough, you may need oral medication or insulin shots.

The possible complications of gestational diabetes — such as preeclampsia and a risk of developing diabetes later in life for mom and excess growth, low blood sugar and breathing trouble for baby — are scary. Still, making healthy lifestyle choices can go a long way toward ensuring a healthy pregnancy.

If you've been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, how have you been handling the condition? Please share your stories.

Sept. 24, 2009