Gestational diabetes refers to a condition that sometimes occurs during pregnancy. Strictly speaking, it is when a woman who is pregnant has too high of a level of blood glucose. Gestational diabetes is not the same thing as diabetes. Gestational diabetes typically disappears after pregnancy is over. If you have gestational diabetes, you will typically need a blood glucose test somewhere around 6 weeks after pregnancy to see if your blood glucose levels are still high. Having gestational diabetes does increase your risk of having gestational diabetes in subsequent pregnancies, and it also increases your risk of having type 2 diabetes later in life.
The rapidly changing hormones, combined with the necessary weight gain involved with pregnancy, are changes that are sometimes difficult for your system to keep on top of. Your body may not produce enough insulin, which is necessary to help you get the energy you need from food. When this happens, your blood sugar levels tend to rise.
A variety of factors put you at a risk for gestational diabetes. If you have a family history of diabetes, you are at increased risk. Women older than 25 years old are at a higher risk than younger women. Women who are overweight before pregnancy are also at a higher risk. Certain ethnic groups, such as African Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Hispanic Americans are also at a higher risk.
Gestational diabetes may not have any symptoms. Gestational diabetes does raise your risk of having high blood pressure while you are pregnant. Still, gestational diabetes can be very serious. If your blood sugar levels are too high, you can run the risk of a variety of pregnancy complications, including stillbirth or having a very large baby, or having breathing difficulties. Gestational diabetes is treatable, and can generally be controlled with diet and lifestyle changes. By getting your blood sugar levels under control, you can dramatically lessen your risks of complications.
Gestational diabetes, unlike regular type 1 or type 2 diabetes, is not believed to create a significant risk of birth defects.