Defeat Diabetes Month: Gestational Diabetes

By Dr. Rachel Robinson, Medical Director of OB/GYN

April is Defeat Diabetes Month—a time to raise awareness about gestational diabetes. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between two and ten percent of pregnancies in this country are impacted by this condition.

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a form of diabetes that can develop in pregnant patients, who otherwise would not have diabetes. It is the most common medical complication of pregnancy and makes up the majority of diabetes cases among pregnant patients.

GDM occurs when the body stops producing enough insulin during pregnancy. Insulin is the hormone that allows blood sugar into the body’s cells for use as energy. Changes that the body undergoes during pregnancy, like weight gain, can cause the body to use insulin less effectively.

Often symptomless, GDM can lead to high blood pressure, preeclampsia and other serious complications. Pregnant patients who are Hispanic, Black, Native American, Asian and Pacific Islander are at increased risk for developing GDM. Obesity and age also increase the risk for the condition.

During pregnancy, an expecting patient should be screened for GDM between 24 to 28 weeks of gestation.  Earlier screening is indicated for those with risk factors for pre-existing diabetes.  The screening process involves drinking approximately 50 grams of glucose. Blood sugar is measured approximately one hour after ingesting the drink.  If the blood sugar is elevated then additional testing is done to confirm a diagnosis.

Like many conditions that develop during pregnancy, GDM needs to be treated as soon as possible to prevent potentially adverse outcomes. Those can include large babies, neonatal hyperglycemia, shoulder dystocia or birth trauma and hyperbilirubinemia, which can cause jaundice.

GDM is treated by diet alone or medication to achieve normal blood glucose levels.  While it resolves after delivery women with a history of GDM have an increased risk of developing diabetes later in life.

If you are pregnant and have concerns about diabetes, it is important to ask your Legacy OB/GYN provider to guide you into getting the help you need. Call 832-548-5000 or visit our website to schedule an appointment.