What Is Gestational Diabetes?

What Is Gestational Diabetes?

Picture of Darcey Croft
Darcey Croft

Has someone mentioned a glucose intolerance test to you? Don’t reach for the panic button. This is a standard test in pregnancy for this common pregnancy-related condition. But knowledge is a powerful tool to reduce worry, so here’s the skinny on gestational diabetes!


Gestational diabetes is a kind of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. If you are diagnosed, this is not a time to be hard on yourself because the condition is largely influenced by the placenta and, in most cases, will resolve once your baby is born.

It occurs when the body is unable to produce enough insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels, to meet the demands of pregnancy. This can cause blood sugar levels to become too high, which if not managed well, can be harmful to both the mother and the baby. The good news is that gestational diabetes is treatable, and with proper management, it’s possible for women with this condition to have a healthy pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. It’s important for pregnant women to work with their healthcare providers to monitor and manage their blood sugar levels and make any necessary lifestyle changes to keep themselves and their babies healthy.

What is the placentas role in gestational diabetes?

The placenta is an organ that forms inside the uterus during pregnancy to provide oxygen and nutrients to the growing baby. It also plays a role in helping to regulate the mother’s blood sugar levels. In women with gestational diabetes, the placenta may produce extra hormones that can interfere with the body’s ability to use insulin, leading to high blood sugar levels. The placenta may also become larger than normal, which can make it more difficult for the baby to get the nutrients and oxygen it needs. This is why it’s important for women with gestational diabetes to closely monitor their blood sugar levels and work with their healthcare providers to manage their condition during pregnancy.

How can I reduce the risk of gestational diabetes?

There are several things you can do to reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy. First, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight before you become pregnant. Women who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop gestational diabetes. Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

It’s also a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about your risk for gestational diabetes and discuss any steps you can take to reduce that risk. Your provider may recommend regular blood sugar testing and making lifestyle changes, such as following a healthy eating plan, increasing physical activity and getting quality sleep to help prevent gestational diabetes.

It’s important to remember that every pregnancy is different, and not all women will develop gestational diabetes. However, taking steps to maintain a healthy weight and manage your blood sugar levels can help reduce your risk and promote a healthy pregnancy.

Who is at risk of gestational diabetes?

Anyone can develop gestational diabetes, but some women are at higher risk than others. The following factors can increase your risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy:

  • A family history of diabetes
  • Being overweight or obese before becoming pregnant
  • Having previously given birth to a large baby (weighing over 9 pounds)
  • Having had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • Being over the age of 25
  • Having a history of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Belonging to certain ethnic groups, such as Hispanic, African American, Native American, or Asian American

If you have any of these risk factors, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about your risk for gestational diabetes and discuss any steps you can take to reduce that risk. Your provider may recommend regular blood sugar testing and making lifestyle changes, such as following a healthy eating plan and increasing physical activity, to help prevent gestational diabetes.

What are the best things to eat if I have gestational diabetes?

If you have gestational diabetes, eating a balanced diet is important to help manage your blood sugar levels and promote a healthy pregnancy. Your healthcare provider can recommend a meal plan that is right for you and your baby. In general, a healthy diet for gestational diabetes may include the following:

  • Fruits and vegetables: Choose a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables to get a range of vitamins, minerals, and fibre. These foods are also low in calories and can help you feel full without increasing your blood sugar levels.
  • Whole grains: Choose whole-grain bread, pasta, and cereal instead of refined grains, which are lower in fibre and can cause your blood sugar to spike.
  • Lean proteins: Choose lean proteins, such as chicken, fish, turkey, and tofu, to get the nutrients you need without consuming too many calories.
  • Healthy fats: Choose healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts, and olive oil, to add flavour and nutrition to your meals.
  • Avoid fried foods and processed snacks, which are high in unhealthy fats and calories.

Eating regular meals and snacks throughout the day is also important to help keep your blood sugar levels stable. Your healthcare provider can help you create a meal plan that works for you and your baby.

Will fasting reverse gestational diabetes?

No, fasting will not reverse gestational diabetes. In fact, skipping meals or going for long periods of time without eating can actually make your blood sugar levels worse and increase your risk of complications.

The only way to manage gestational diabetes is through a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and, in some cases, medication. Fasting is not a safe or effective way to manage gestational diabetes. It’s important to work with your healthcare provider to develop a treatment plan that is right for you and your baby.

How does exercise help gestational diabetes?

Exercise can help gestational diabetes in several ways. First, physical activity can help improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which can help lower blood sugar levels. This is important because gestational diabetes occurs when the body is unable to produce enough insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels, to meet the demands of pregnancy.

Exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight, which is important for managing gestational diabetes. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing gestational diabetes, and gaining too much weight during pregnancy can make it more difficult to manage the condition. Regular physical activity can help you control your weight and reduce your risk of complications.

In addition, exercise can improve your overall health and well-being during pregnancy. It can help reduce stress, improve sleep, and boost your mood. It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program and choose safe and appropriate activities for pregnancy. Your provider can help you develop a safe and effective exercise plan that is right for you and your baby.

What are the symptoms of gestational diabetes?

Most women with gestational diabetes do not have any symptoms. This is why it’s important for pregnant women to undergo regular blood sugar testing as part of their prenatal care. However, some women with gestational diabetes may experience the following symptoms:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Glucose detected on urine dipsticks
  • Baby growing larger than expected for gestation
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider right away. Gestational diabetes can be treated and managed with the right care, but it’s important to catch it early to reduce the risk of complications for you and your baby. Your provider can recommend blood sugar testing and identify if you have it.

If my baby is big, does that mean I have gestational diabetes?

Not necessarily. Having a large baby does not necessarily mean that you have gestational diabetes. There are many factors that can affect the size of a baby, and not all large babies are born to mothers with gestational diabetes.

However, gestational diabetes can cause blood sugar levels to become unstable and too high, which can be harmful to both the mother and the baby. High blood sugar levels during pregnancy can cause the baby to grow larger than usual, but other factors, such as the mother’s weight and the baby’s genetic makeup, can also affect the size of the baby.

It’s natural to feel concerned if you have gestational diabetes, but it’s important to remember that this condition is treatable and manageable. With the right care, you can have a healthy pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby.

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