Should You Screen for Gestational Diabetes?

About 3% of all pregnant women develop gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that occurs only during pregnancy. This condition results when the amount of insulin (the hormone that allows the body to process sugar) production by a woman`s pancreas is not great enough to meet her body`s needs. Without enough insulin, the level of sugar in the blood (blood glucose level) can become high enough to create health problems for both mother and baby.

Gestational diabetes usually appears about the 24th week of pregnancy, for it is at this point the placenta begins producing greater levels of the hormones that affect insulin use. Because physical symptoms are rare during the early stages of this condition, you may be screened at or around the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy for gestational diabetes.

If your screening test shows levels to be above a certain range, you will be scheduled for a more extensive test.

Who should have a screening test

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG), in a recent statement recommends that a woman may not need laboratory testing to screen for GD if she meets all of the following criteria:

  • Is less than 25 years old
  • Is not a member of a racial or ethnic group with a high prevalence of diabetes (eg, Hispanic, African, Native American, South or East Asian, or Pacific Islands ancestry)
  • Has a body mass index (BMI) 25 or less
  • Has no history of abnormal glucose tolerance
  • Has no previous history of adverse pregnancy outcomes usually associated with GDM
  • Has no known diabetes in first-degree relative

Women who are at a higher risk for GD usually have one of the following risk factors:

  • age
  • ethnicity
  • obesity
  • family history of diabetes
  • past obstetric history

Managing Gestational Diabetes

If you have gestational diabetes, there are steps you must take to control it. If the condition is not managed properly, and blood sugar levels remain too high for too long, your health can be severely affected.

Gestational diabetes can also result in your baby growing considerably larger than a baby of a non-diabetic mother. This larger size can present problems during the labor process and may make a Cesarean birth necessary.

Depending upon the severity of your gestational diabetes, the following may be recommended:

  • Follow a specific diet - You'll probably be referred to a dietician, who will work with you to develop an eating plan that meets your needs. The diet will balance carbohydrates, fat, and protein; be low in fat and cholesterol; and be high in fiber. Simple or refined sugars (such as table sugar, syrup, honey, etc.) will be minimized or avoided completely, as these can cause blood sugar levels to rise.
  • Exercise - Eating right and exercising wisely are two natural ways to help regulate your blood sugar. Your dietician or midwife/doctor will advise you on what type of activity is best for you and how frequently you should exercise.
  • Test your blood and/or urine - In addition to having blood and urine tests during your prenatal visits, you may be instructed to perform these tests at home. Urine testing usually involves placing a chemically treated paper or plastic strip in a urine sample, then seeing how the changing color of the strip compares to a color-coded scale. At-home blood tests may be performed by placing a drop of blood from your finger on a chemically treated strip and color matching the results, or by using a special machine that "reads" the level of glucose in the blood.
  • Take insulin if prescribed - It may be necessary for you to supplement your body's own insulin supplies through injections of insulin.

    The amount and type of insulin you require each day will be calculated after obtaining the results of your daily glucose testing.

For your health and that of your baby, it is very important that you control gestational diabetes.

From Her Healthcare.