A 16-week look at managing high blood sugar during pregnancy

You’re halfway through your pregnancy; everything seems fine. You’re excited and feeling good. Then, at about week 24, your doctor has you complete a routine oral glucose tolerance test. You are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Whats up?

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), gestational diabetes affects 18 percent of pregnant women. In gestational diabetes, the hormones that help your baby develop also interfere with the action of the insulin in your body. The result: You have high blood sugar.

But don’t panic. If treated, gestational diabetes shouldn’t pose a threat to you or your baby. Here’s a week-by-week guide to managing it, in concert with your doctor.

Gestational Diabetes

Weeks 24-28 Though many women have no symptoms, you might experience mild ones like frequent thirst, increased urination, fatigue or weight loss. Your OB-GYN will give you an oral glucose tolerance test during this period to check for gestational diabetes. If your blood sugar is elevated, you and your doctor will map out a management plan.

Weeks 29-32 To keep your blood sugar under control, you will probably be asked to start a consistent exercise routine and maintain a strict diet of three medium-size meals plus two snacks per day. This will include eating moderate levels of complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and brown rice while minimizing candy, fruit juices and desserts. If diet and exercise don’t control your blood sugar, you may be started on insulin.

Weeks 33-36 Poorly managed gestational diabetes can cause your baby to gain excessive weight, possibly leading to complications during childbirth. Because of this, your health care provider will closely monitor your baby’s overall condition by using ultrasound to assess size and growth rate and a non-stress test to check your baby’s heart rate. Poorly managed gestational diabetes also puts your child at an increased risk of obesity and diabetes.

Weeks 37-40 Time to have your baby! According to the ADA, pregnant women who develop gestational diabetes tend to give birth to larger babies. Their babies are also more likely to have low blood sugar for the first few days. However, women whose gestational diabetes is properly managed usually find that their blood sugar levels go back to normal after delivery.

If you develop gestational diabetes, your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life goes up, so be sure to monitor your blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Talk to your health care provider about risks and prevention strategies.

Deanna B. Nelson is a registered nurse and exercise physiologist who specializes in diabetes education and prevention.