Good prenatal care is important to both you and your baby. One health concern that affects approximately 8-10 percent of mothers during pregnancy is gestational diabetes (GDM). GDM occurs when a pregnant woman, who has never had diabetes, develops high blood sugar for the first time during pregnancy. Like any type of diabetes, GDM affects how your body uses sugar – your main source of energy.
Although it’s unknown why certain women develop GDM, a pregnant woman is at greater risk if she:
- Is older than 25 when pregnant
- Has a family history of diabetes
- Is overweight before or during pregnancy
- Previously gave birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds or had a birth defect
- Has high blood pressure
Most mothers with GDM give birth to healthy babies; however, if it is not properly managed, it can cause complications to both the mother and the baby. The baby may be at an increased risk of high birth weight, early birth, not fully developed lungs, low blood sugar and jaundice. Most importantly, how well GMD is controlled in pregnancy will set the baby’s “sugar thermostat” for later in life. Infants born to mothers with poorly controlled GDM, have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Typically, a mother’s blood glucose levels return back to normal after the delivery, but GDM may cause a mother to be at a higher risk for diabetes in the future.
Typically, GDM begins halfway through the pregnancy. It is recommended that women receive an oral glucose tolerance test during or close to the 28th week of pregnancy to screen for the condition. Women who have risk factors of GDM may need to be tested earlier.
At Mount Nittany Physician Group, we perform the screening for GDM twice – at 16 weeks and at 28 weeks – due to the high amount of women in the region who have the condition. By performing the test twice, we can better manage GDM for our patients. GDM can usually be controlled through monitoring of blood sugar, eating a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and engaging in regular exercise.
For more information on GDM or Mount Nittany Physician Group OB-GYN, visit mountnittany.org or call 814.237.3470.