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Gestational Diabetes: About the Pregnancy Complication

After 3 pregnancies and 4 babies, I almost feel like an expert on gestational diabetes. Unfortunately, that is because: (1) I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during my pregnancy with twins in 2002, and (2) I now have Type 1 diabetes as a result.

What if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes?

You should not be alarmed, regardless of my circumstances. Ending up with Type 1 diabetes is a very rare outcome of gestational diabetes. Nonetheless, women who contract gestational diabetes during pregnancy do have a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life. For this reason, you should learn the early warning signs of diabetes:

1. Excessive thirst

2. Exhaustion

3. Unexplained weight loss

4. Blurry vision and/or dizziness

5. Frequent urination

If you have any combination of these symptoms, you should consult your doctor as soon as possible to discuss the prospect of a glucose tolerance test. Failure to treat high blood sugars resulting from diabetes can have serious results.

The prospect of a large baby is not the only risk of gestational diabetes

The prospect of a large baby is not the only risk of gestational diabetes

What Causes Gestational Diabetes?

Before my diagnosis of gestational diabetes, I thought that the risk factors were simply: a history of large babies, being overweight, not exercising, and a diet consisting primarily of high carbohydrate foods. Nope, this is not 100% accurate.

Gestational diabetes tends to strike women that may otherwise be prone to Type 2 diabetes. Their bodies may already be compromised by the pre-diabetes, where the pancreas (the organ that produces insulin) is having difficulty keeping up with sugar levels in the bloodstream. Pregnancy - particularly a multiple pregnancy - may result in the release of hormones that further interfere with the pancreas's ability to output sufficient insulin.

In cases like mine, however, none of the diabetes risk factors may be present. That is to say, even if the medical community can identify certain things that make you more prone to contract gestational diabetes, you may not be able to avoid it.

Generally, a glucose tolerance test is given to all pregnant women between 26-30 weeks gestation. A sugary liquid is consumed and then a simple blood test, with a blood sugar meter, is conducted to determine whether levels are in range. A normal blood sugar level will be less than 150 mg/100 ml. Your doctor will give you specific instructions regarding the test.

While women that suffer from gestational diabetes tend to have large babies, it does not only strike women that are overweight or those that have a poor diet. I was pregnant with my twins when I was 34 years old. They were my third pregnancy. At 5'4" tall, I weighed 125 pounds when I got pregnant. I gained 55 pounds in the pregnancy overall, before delivering them at 38 weeks gestation.

In my case, gestational diabetes was a precursor to the auto-immune disease, Type 1 diabetes. There is nothing I could have done to slow or stop the the affliction. Auto-immune disorders are simply an over-reaction of the immune system (there are a number of related disorders, from Grave's Disease to Crohn's Disease and more).

Illustrative graphic of Gestational diabetes

Illustrative graphic of Gestational diabetes

Ultrasound image: 28 weeks

Ultrasound image: 28 weeks

Treatment of Gestational Diabetes

Depending on how high your blood sugar levels are, if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, there are several treatment options.

If your levels are elevated, but not over 180-200 mg/ml, you may be allowed to go on a low-carbohydrate diet and try to increase exercise. You'll be required to keep a food journal, test your blood sugars up to 4 times a day, if possible. Every 15 grams of carbs is considered to be one serving. Each meal may be restricted to 2 servings of carbohydrates, or less.

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For those patients who have higher blood sugar levels, and/or those that do not respond to diet and exercise adjustments, insulin may be prescribed. Do not be alarmed. This treatment is necessary for your health and that of your baby. Your own pancreas simply may not be able to keep up. Supplementing with insulin injections (based on specific directions of your doctor) can help you maintain your weight and prevent your baby from gaining too much from excess sugar levels in your system.

Untreated, or not treated properly, gestational diabetes can result in a too large, yet immature baby. After your infant is delivered, their blood sugar levels can crash to dangerously low level after the sugar is literally cut-off from your system. This is why it is so important for you that your own blood sugar levels are maintained at a consistent, healthy level - no matter what it takes.

The Bottom Line on Gestational Diabetes

Do not react too strongly to a diagnosis of gestational diabetes. Do take it seriously, though. The health of you and your baby is dependent on self-care. You may come through the pregnancy and never worry about diabetes again. If nothing else, the diagnosis is a great way to learn about serving sizes and the impact of ingesting carbohydrates.

It is very important that diabetes is managed during gestation, not only for you, but for your baby!

If gestational diabetes does lead to either Type 2 or Type 1 diabtetes in the future, you'll have a great base knowledge of what to do, how to eat, and what to look for with respect to future health issues. Diabetes is challenging, but its not a death sentence. You can have a full and happy life, regardless. With children, you can consider yourself doubly blessed.

I am happy to answer any questions about gestational diabetes, or diabetes in general. Please be sure to leave a comment below, and I will respond.

Wishing you the best of health!

© 2009 Stephanie Marshall


Hashp from india on December 22, 2017:

Very informative article.

Mostly gestational diabetes may be either pre-existing Type II diabetes diagnosed during routine antenatal checkup or pure gestational diabetes which has developed during pregnancy. There is a relative deficiency of insulin in type II diabetes; a mismatch between supply and demand and blood sugar level may be controlled on oral hypoglycemic tablets; though few cases might require insulin.

Type I diabetes is always dependant on insulin as the deficiency of insulin here is absolute.

JScott48 on February 16, 2015:

Was your type 1 diagnose during your pregnancy or immediately after. I have GD, but my doctor is saying that it is acting more like type 1 than type 2, something he has seen rarely in his 25 plus years of experience. I am just curious since I am trying to figure out what that might mean for me long term after the baby.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 17, 2012:

Thanks Giselle! My twin pregnancy was the only one in which I tested positive for gestational diabetes. Not only did I fail the first test, but for the 3-hour test, each of my levels (3 tests) were elevated significantly. I didn't realize at the time that I was proceeding into Type 1 diabetes - rare for someone my age. The vast majority of people with gestational diabetes will have the condition resolve after delivery. Thank you for the comment, Giselle! Best, Steph

Giselle Maine on February 17, 2012:

Although I did not have gestational diabetes myself, I got worried in both my pregnancies because I failed the first, shorter, insulin tolerance test. In both cases I was told to come back for the 3 hour glucose tolerance test, and fortunately I did fine on those ones and I didn't have gestational diabetes. But needless to say I had some moments of concern (mainly because I had no idea what to expect if it turned out that I had GD). So your hub is a great resource for anyone that might be worried or concerned... Steph, you do a great job explaining what to expect and why it is important for mom and baby that mom manage GD properly.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 20, 2011:

Thank you ncuxapa!

ncuxapa_ on February 20, 2011:

I think that you got plenty of knowledge on the subject of diabetes. Good

diabetes jokes, jokes about diabetes, diabetes humor, nurse jokes on September 28, 2009:

its sad to hear your story, its hard cause your pregnant, but anyway good videos and images. thanks for sharing your story and telling us what are the symptoms of this diabetes. its a big help. thanks again and good luck to you and to your baby. on June 12, 2009:

as a student in Medi i can,thank youguys for the info,...

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on May 17, 2009:

Thank you Amy! You know, the other danger of high weight babies from diabetic moms is that their blood sugar can plummet after delivery. Its just not good all around, unless managed and treated.

Hi LondonGirl - thank you so much!

LondonGirl from London on May 17, 2009:

This is a great, detailed, but easy to read hub.

Amy M from Manzano Mountains on May 17, 2009:

Great information. I had gestational diabetes with my second pregnancy. Thankfully, I was able to control it and my son was only 7 lbs. 3 oz. Working in NICU we would get babies from diabetic moms that were 12 lbs and over. They barely fit in the warmer.

Diabetes is a very dangerous disease when not managed well. In my Home Health experience I have had so many patients blind, on dialysis, lost limbs, all because they did not manage their Diabetes adequately.

Moin SEO on May 15, 2009:

That picture you posted nice bcz some days after I became dad...

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on May 15, 2009:

Thank you Diamond RN - diabetes is difficult, but you can still do many wonderful things. I ran a marathon last year! Self-care is important. Just get a good "diabetes team," and you'll be on the way.

Bob Diamond RPh from Charlotte, NC USA on May 15, 2009:

As a pharmacist, I can tell you that this is some good and needed information.

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