Gestational Diabetes is a type of diabetes that is present in pregnancy. While every person has sugar (glucose) in their blood, diabetes occurs when you have higher than normal blood sugar levels.
What causes gestational diabetes?
The placenta, which helps the baby grow also produces hormones. These hormones can block the mother’s ability to control blood sugar levels, leading to gestational diabetes.
Who is at risk of gestational diabetes?
All pregnant women can get gestational diabetes, however, women at higher risk include those who:
- are 40 years or over
- have had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- have a family history of gestational diabetes
- are above healthy weight or gain weight too rapidly in the first half of pregnancy
- are Aboriginal, Torres Strait Island, Asian, Indian, South Pacific, Maori, Middle Eastern or African women
- have polycystic ovarian syndrome.
What are the concerns related to gestational diabetes?
When a mother’s blood sugar levels are too high, excess sugar can cause the baby to grow larger than average. This can make labour and delivery more difficult and increase the chance of baby being delivered via caesarean.
Babies born to mothers with unstable blood sugars may have health issues. These include low blood sugars, breathing and feeding difficulties. Both babies and mums have a higher chance of developing diabetes in later life.
How can you look after yourself if you have gestational diabetes?
- Know and monitor your blood sugar levels regularly as per your medical team’s instructions (doctor, nurse, diabetes educator, diabetes dietitian).
- Include low glycaemic carbohydrate foods with your meals and eat regularly from a wide range of food groups across the day (see our factsheet on healthy eating for gestational diabetes for more information).
- maintain regular physical activity (be sure to be cleared by your doctor if you have not been active regularly prior to pregnancy).
- take your medications and insulin as prescribed.