Diabetes is a common condition that affects many Americans. However, even though many women enter pregnancy healthy, they develop gestational diabetes, which can affect both mom and baby. If you are worried about gestational diabetes, check out these commonly asked questions.

What Is Gestational Diabetes?

Most people develop diabetes at a young age (type 1), or they develop it later in life because of poor eating habits (type 2). However, even if you’ve never had diabetes, you can develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy. There is no clear cause of gestational diabetes, but the condition can happen for one of several reasons.

First, all the hormones in the body may interfere with the body’s ability to produce insulin, causing insulin resistance. In other cases, the mother’s body simply can’t create enough insulin to process all the sugars. This leaves lots of glucose in the blood stream. Risk factors for gestational diabetes include: being overweight, being inactive, and prediabetes.

What Are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of gestational diabetes are similar to those for other forms of diabetes. Many patients may feel fatigued or lethargic. They also tend to have a constant thirst and tend to urinate a lot as the kidneys work overtime to eliminate the excess sugar in the bloodstream.

You may also find that you tend to crave sweet foods and drinks more often. In fact, regular, big meals may leave you feeling sick or nauseated, but because your body thinks you’re starving (thanks to the insulin fluctuations), it makes you want fast, easy calories: sugar. Finally, many pregnant women may have blurred vision or tingling in hands/feet if they develop gestational diabetes.

How Is It Treated?

There is no cure for any form of diabetes, but there are ways you can manage your diabetes symptoms during pregnancy. You’ll want to start treatment as soon as you suspect you have gestational diabetes, so work closely with your doctor.

Your doctor will help you understand a healthy diet to manage your blood sugar during pregnancy. Typically, if you are pregnant, you want to have a 95 mg/dl or less before you eat and 140 mg/dl or less one hour after a meal. In additional to following a healthy diet, your doctor will also suggest some exercise.

What Are the Long-Term Complications?

In many cases, as long as you seek treatment, your blood sugar levels and insulin production will return to normal after you’ve given birth. However, with or without treatment, you may face some long-term complications. Women with gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing it again during a second pregnancy, but they also have an increases risk of catching diabetes type 2.

Your baby, however, also faces long-term complications. Some babies may be born with high or low blood sugar, and in some cases, it may increase their chance of developing diabetes type 2 later in life. Your doctor will help you determine a good feeding schedule to help balance glucose and insulin levels in your baby.

Both mom and baby can also be affected if the diabetes is not controlled. This can lead to a big baby, which may require a C-Section instead of natural birth. Women who undergo a C-Section usually have a longer healing period.

If you develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, it can increase your risk (and your baby’s risk) of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Too much or too little insulin and glucose can also affect your baby’s sugar levels at the time of birth. If you would like to know more about gestational diabetes, how to avoid it, and how to treat it, contact us at Rappahannock Women’s Health Center today.