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Five Facts About Gestational Diabetes

November is National Diabetes Month, making it a great time to raise awareness about gestational diabetes, which affects up to 10 percent of pregnancies every year in the United States. Managing gestational diabetes is key to helping ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby in women with the condition.

Childbirth Graphics is dedicated to helping ensure healthy babies and healthy families. In our product sections dedicated to pregnancy hazards and pregnancy education materials, we feature resources covering gestational diabetes as well as a wide variety of other essential health concerns during pregnancy.

Read on to learn five facts about gestational diabetes and how gestational diabetes can impact the health of mothers and babies.

#1: Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops for the first time during pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes is different from the other two main types of diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes can affect people of any age, but it normally develops in children and teenagers. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little to no insulin. Insulin is needed for the body’s cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream, which the cells need for energy. People with type 1 diabetes must supply their bodies daily with the insulin they are unable to produce.

Type 2 diabetes develops most frequently in adults, but it also can develop in children. In a person with type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t make enough insulin, or the body’s cells can’t use the insulin effectively. People with type 2 diabetes can manage their diabetes with a healthy lifestyle and medication, but insulin replacement is sometimes also necessary. Being overweight and physically inactive increase the risk for type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy in a woman who hasn’t previously had diabetes. During pregnancy, hormones can make it harder for the mother’s cells to use insulin. Normally, the mother’s pancreas produces extra insulin to help her body compensate. However, if the mother’s body cannot make enough insulin, high blood glucose results.

Our Understanding Gestational Diabetes Tear Pad is a great
handout to explain the importance of managing gestational diabetes.

#2 Being overweight and physically inactive before pregnancy increase the risk of gestational diabetes.

Any women can develop gestational diabetes. However, being overweight or obese and being physically inactive prior to pregnancy can increase the risk. Other risk factors include having had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, having high blood pressure or a history of heart disease, or having prediabetes (higher than normal blood glucose but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes) before pregnancy. Women with no risk factors can also develop gestational diabetes.

#3: Having gestational diabetes doesn’t mean you won’t have a healthy pregnancy or a healthy baby.

Having gestational diabetes increases the risks of pregnancy complications for both mother and baby. Mothers are more likely to develop high blood pressure during pregnancy, require a cesarean birth, and have heavy bleeding after delivery. Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes may become very large, increasing the risk for injuries during vaginal birth. They also are at increased risk for breathing problems and jaundice.

Fortunately, gestational diabetes can be managed successfully for healthy outcomes for mother and baby. All pregnant women should be screened for gestational diabetes. Once diagnosed with gestational diabetes, a pregnant woman will have more frequent healthcare visits and will need to monitor her blood glucose levels. Many women are able to control their gestational diabetes with healthy eating, regular physical activity, and working with their healthcare professional to ensure proper blood glucose levels. In some cases, medication may be necessary.

Our Managing Diabetes Pop-Up Banner gives a quick
overview of the essentials of diabetes management.

#4: Having gestational diabetes increases the likelihood that the mother will develop type 2 diabetes in the future.

Having a history of gestational diabetes during pregnancy does increase a woman’s risk for type 2 diabetes later in life. In fact, about 50 percent of women who have had gestational diabetes will eventually develop type 2 diabetes. However, there are steps a woman can take to help reduce her risk, including eating a healthy diet, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, and breastfeeding her children.

#5: Babies born to mothers who had gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

Babies born to mothers who had gestational diabetes may be at higher risk of becoming overweight or obese during childhood. As they get older, they also have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Parents should let their baby’s healthcare professional know about the mother’s gestational diabetes. As their child grows, monitoring of blood sugar levels by the child’s healthcare professional and a healthy, active lifestyle can decrease the likelihood that their baby will develop type 2 diabetes as her or she gets older.

Find More Great Pregnancy Education Teaching Tools

From prenatal care and fetal development to important health concerns such as high blood pressure and signs of preterm labor, Childbirth Graphics features essential teaching tools for any childbirth education program. Find more great materials in our pregnancy education materials section and pregnancy hazards section.

The information contained in this article is not intended to replace the advice of a healthcare professional.

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