Gestational Diabetes

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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What are the symptoms of gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes typically does not cause any noticeable signs or symptoms. This is why screening tests are so important. Rarely, an increased thirst or increased urinary frequency may be noticed.

How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?

Gestational diabetes is diagnosed with blood tests. Most pregnant women are tested between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy, but if you have risk factors, your doctor may decide to test earlier in the pregnancy.

Blood testing confirms the diagnosis. A screening glucose tolerance test involves drinking a sugary beverage and having your blood drawn an hour later to test the glucose levels an hour later. If the screening test is not normal, you may need additional testing will generally be necessary. Another type of test is an oral glucose challenge test (OGTT). For this test your baseline blood glucose level is checked and then measured at 1, 2, and sometimes 3 hours after consuming a sugary drink.

Glycosylated hemoglobin, or hemoglobin A1c, is another test that may be performed. This test is used to monitor long-term blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. The hemoglobin A1c level offers a measure of the average blood glucose level over the past few months.

What are the consequences of gestational diabetes for the baby and mother?

Women with gestational diabetes who receive proper care typically go on to deliver healthy babies. However, if you have persistently elevated blood glucose levels throughout pregnancy, the fetus will also have elevated blood glucose levels. High blood glucose can cause the fetus to be larger than normal, possibly making delivery more complicated. The baby is also at risk for having low blood glucose (hypoglycemia) immediately after birth. Other serious complications of poorly controlled gestational diabetes in the newborn can include an greater risk of jaundice, an increased risk for respiratory distress syndrome, and a higher chance of dying before or following birth. The baby is also at a greater risk of becoming overweight and developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

If diabetes is present in an early pregnancy, there is an increased risk of birth defects and miscarriage compared to that of mothers without diabetes.

Women with gestational diabetes have a greater chance of needing a Cesarean birth (C-section), in part due to large infant size. Gestational diabetes may increase the risk of preeclampsia, a maternal condition characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. Women with gestational diabetes are also at increased risk of having type 2 diabetes after the pregnancy.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/29/2016

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