Pregnant women may have higher-than-normal levels of glucose in their blood, placing them at risk for diabetes in their pregnancy. Unfortunately, there are few symptoms of gestational diabetes during pregnancy. These symptoms may include increased thirst, excessive hunger and more frequent urination. However, many women never experience these symptoms, and those who do sometimes attribute them to the general experience of pregnancy. As such, doctors generally screen for this condition sometime during the second trimester, even if the patient is exhibiting no symptoms of gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

Sometimes doctors will test for this condition even earlier in the pregnancy if the patient is at risk. According to the Mayo Clinic, risk factors for gestational diabetes include age, family history, elevated blood sugar levels or a personal history of gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy. Other factors may include obesity or race, with black, Hispanic, American Indian and Asian woman at higher risk.


Diagnosing Gestational Diabetes


Unless a woman is at high risk or is exhibiting symptoms of gestational diabetes during pregnancy, most doctors will wait to screen for gestational diabetes until the second trimester, generally between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Doctors typically perform a glucose challenge test, which involves patients drinking a glucose solution, followed by a test of their blood glucose levels. If the blood glucose level is higher than normal, then a follow-up test is performed. This is generally a three-hour test that involves patients drinking a glucose solution and then testing their blood each hour.


Treating Gestational Diabetes


Women who test positive for gestational diabetes will need to vigilantly monitor and control their blood sugar levels. This may involve testing their blood multiple times a day with a lancet, as well as having their doctors check their blood glucose levels at follow-up appointments throughout their pregnancy.

Diet is another important key to managing gestational diabetes. Patients should work with their doctors to determine healthy weight-gain goals and what foods will promote those targets. While a patient’s doctor will recommend a diet based on her individual needs, healthy diets generally are low in fat and processed sugars, and include fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Exercise can also help to lower blood sugar levels, so pregnant women should work with their doctors to establish an exercise regimen that’s right for them.

Proper diet and exercise can help to alleviate the symptoms of gestational diabetes during pregnancy. However, if blood glucose levels remain high, then medication or insulin injections may be necessary. Frequently, blood glucose levels return to normal within six weeks after childbirth; however, women should consult their doctors about necessary follow-up screenings.


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