Diabetes in Pregnancy

Specialist in Pre-Existing Diabetes in Pregnancy and Gestational Diabetes. 

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Pregnancy is a transformative journey, filled with excitement, anticipation, and, at times, challenges. One such challenge that some women face is diabetes in pregnancy, also known as gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). This condition requires careful management to ensure the health and well-being of both the mother and the baby.

Diabetes in pregnancy, or gestational diabetes, (GDM) is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. It occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin to meet the extra needs of pregnancy, leading to high blood sugar levels. Unlike type 1 and type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes usually resolves after the baby is born. However, it requires careful management to ensure a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

Who is affected?

Gestational diabetes is relatively common, affecting approximately 2-10% of pregnancies in the United States. Certain factors can increase the risk of developing gestational diabetes, including:

  • Age: Women over the age of 25 are more likely to develop GDM.
  • Family history: A family history of diabetes increases the risk.
  • Weight: Being overweight or obese before pregnancy is a significant risk factor.
  • Ethnicity: Women of certain ethnic backgrounds, such as Hispanic, African-American, Native American, and Asian, are at higher risk.
  • Previous Pregnancy: A history of gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy raises the likelihood of recurrence.

Early and accurate diagnosis of gestational diabetes is crucial for effective management. Most pregnant women are screened for GDM between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy, though those with higher risk factors may be tested earlier. The standard screening method involves a glucose challenge test (GCT):

  1. Glucose Challenge Test (GCT): You’ll be asked to drink a sugary solution, and your blood sugar level will be tested an hour later. If your blood sugar level is higher than normal, further testing is needed.

  2. Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT): If the GCT results are high, an OGTT is performed. You’ll fast overnight, then drink a sugary solution. Your blood sugar levels will be tested several times over three hours. If two or more readings are higher than normal, gestational diabetes is diagnosed.

Gestational diabetes can pose risks to both the mother and the baby if not properly managed. Understanding these risks can empower you to take proactive steps for a healthy pregnancy.

For the Mother

  • High Blood Pressure: Gestational diabetes increases the risk of high blood pressure and preeclampsia, a serious condition that can affect both mother and baby.
  • Future Diabetes: Women who develop gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
  • Complicated Delivery: GDM may increase the likelihood of needing a cesarean section.

For the Baby

  • Excessive Birth Weight: High blood sugar levels in the mother can lead to increased fetal weight, making delivery more challenging and increasing the risk of injury during birth.
  • Preterm Birth: GDM increases the risk of preterm birth and associated complications, such as respiratory distress syndrome.
  • Low Blood Sugar: Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes may experience low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) shortly after birth.
  • Long-term Health Risks: Children born to mothers with GDM are at higher risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.

What Can You Do?

Managing gestational diabetes involves a combination of lifestyle changes, monitoring, and sometimes medication. The goal is to keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range to ensure the best outcomes for both mother and baby.

Lifestyle Changes

  • Healthy Eating: A balanced diet is essential for managing gestational diabetes. Focus on eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Avoid foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. 

  • Regular Exercise: Physical activity helps regulate blood sugar levels. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week, such as walking, swimming, or prenatal yoga. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine.

  • Weight Management: If you were overweight before pregnancy, your healthcare provider might recommend gaining less weight during pregnancy to help control blood sugar levels. Follow your provider’s guidelines for healthy weight gain.

Monitoring Blood Sugar Levels

Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels is crucial for managing gestational diabetes. Your healthcare provider will show you how to check your blood sugar at home using a glucometer. Keeping a log of your readings and sharing them with your healthcare team will help them adjust your treatment plan as needed.


If lifestyle changes and monitoring are not enough to control your blood sugar levels, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication. This could include insulin injections or oral medications. The goal is to use the safest and most effective treatment for you and your baby.

Diabetes in pregnancy can be challenging, but with the right support and management, you can have a healthy pregnancy and baby. Dr. Rivera is here to help empower you with knowledge, build a strong support network, and maintain open communication. Remember, you are taking important steps to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your baby. Embrace the journey with confidence and positivity, knowing that you have the power to manage this condition successfully.