Gestational diabetes is a kind of diabetes that can happen during pregnancy. Four out of every 100 pregnant women (4 percent) develop gestational diabetes. Like other kinds of diabetes, gestational diabetes is a condition in which your body has too much sugar (called glucose) in the blood. Glucose is your body's main source of fuel for energy.
Gestational diabetes usually goes away after you give birth. But if you have it in one pregnancy, you’re more likely to have it in your next pregnancy. You’re also more likely to develop diabetes later in life. Being active, eating healthy foods that are low in sugar and losing weight may help reduce your chances of developing diabetes later in life.
Most of the time gestational diabetes can be controlled and treated during pregnancy to protect both mom and baby. If untreated, though, it can cause serious health problems for you and your baby. If gestational diabetes is left untreated, your baby is more likely to:
- Be born very large. Large babies can get hurt during vaginal birth. You may need to have a cesarean section (c-section) to keep your baby safe. A c-section is surgery in which your baby is born through a cut that your doctor makes in your belly and uterus (womb).
- Have birth defects. A birth defect is a health condition that is present at birth. Birth defects change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. They can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops, or in how the body works.
- Have health complications after birth, including breathing problems, low blood sugar and jaundice. Jaundice is a medical condition in which a baby's eyes and skin look yellow. A baby has jaundice when his liver isn't fully developed or isn't working well.
- Be stillborn. This is death of a baby in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy but before birth.
You may be more likely than other women to develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy if:
- You’re 30 years old or older.
- You’re overweight or you gained a lot of weight during pregnancy.
- You have a family history of diabetes. This means that one or more of your family members has diabetes.
- You’re African-American, Native American, Asian, Hispanic or Pacific Islander. These ethnic groups are more likely to have gestational diabetes than other groups.
- You had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy.
- In your last pregnancy, you gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 1/2 pounds or was stillborn.
Even women without any of these risk factors can develop gestational diabetes. This is why health care providers test you during pregnancy to see if you have this condition.
Your health care provider tests you for gestational diabetes with a prenatal test called a glucose tolerance test. You get the test at 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. Your provider may give you the test earlier if he thinks you’re likely to develop gestational diabetes.
If you do have gestational diabetes, eating healthy foods and being physically active may be enough to control your blood sugar levels. Women with gestational diabetes may need to check their blood sugar several times a day. You can do this with a special finger-stick device. Some women with gestational diabetes need treatment with medicine or insulin shots. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body control its blood sugar level.
Last reviewed October 2012
Frequently Asked Questions
What is mononucleosis?
Mononucleosis (also called mono) is an infection usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). It’s sometimes caused by another virus called cytomegalovirus (CMV). EBV and CMV are part of the herpes virus family. Mono is most common in teenagers and young adults, but anyone can get it. Mono is called the “kissing disease” because it’s usually passed from one person to another through saliva. In addition to kissing, it can also be passed through sneezing, coughing or sharing pillows, drinks, straws, and toothbrushes.
You can have mono without having any symptoms. But even if you don’t get sick, you can still pass it to others. Symptoms can include:
- Achy muscles
- Belly pain
- Fatigue (feeling tired all the time)
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands in your neck
If your symptoms don’t go away or get worse, tell your health care provider. He’ll most likely do a physical exam and test your blood to find out for sure if you have mono.
There’s no vaccine to prevent mono. There’s also no specific treatment. The best care is to take it easy and get as much rest as you can. It may take a few weeks before you fully recover.
Can Rh factor affect my baby?
The Rh factor may be a problem if mom is Rh-negative but dad is Rh-positive. If dad is Rh-negative, there is no risk.
If your baby gets her Rh-positive factor from dad, your body may believe that your baby's red blood cells are foreign elements attacking you. Your body may make antibodies to fight them. This is called sensitization.
If you're Rh-negative, you can get shots of Rh immune globulin (RhIg) to stop your body from attacking your baby. It's best to get these shots at 28 weeks of pregnancy and again within 72 hours of giving birth if a blood test shows that your baby is Rh-positive. You won't need anymore shots after giving birth if your baby is Rh-negative. You should also get a shot after certain pregnancy exams like an amniocentesis, a chorionic villus sampling or an external cephalic version (when your provider tries to turn a breech-position baby head down before labor). You'll also want to get the shot if you have a miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy or suffer abdominal trauma.
I had a miscarriage. How long should I wait to try again?
Before getting pregnant again, it's important that you are ready both physically and emotionally. If you don't need tests or treatments to discover the cause of the miscarriage, it's usually OK for you to become pregnant after one normal menstrual cycle. However, it may take longer for you to feel emotionally ready to be pregnant again. Everyone responds differently to a miscarriage. Only you will know when you are ready to try to get pregnant again.
Are gallstones common during pregnancy?
Not common, but they do happen. Elevated hormones during pregnancy can cause the gallbladder to function more slowly, less efficiently. The gallbladder stores and releases bile, a substance produced in the liver. Bile helps digest fat. When bile sits in the gallbladder for too long, hard, solid nuggets called gallstones can form. The stones can block the flow of bile, causing indigestion and sometimes serious pain. Staying at a healthy weight during pregnancy can help lower your risk of gallstones. Exercise and eating foods that are low in fat and high in fiber, like veggies, fruits and whole grains, can help, too. Symptoms of gallstones include nausea, vomiting and intense, continuous abdominal pain. Treatment during pregnancy may include surgery to remove the gallbladder. Gallstones in the third trimester can be managed with a strict meal plan and pain medication, followed by surgery several weeks after delivery.