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What You Need to Know About Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes can be frightening, especially if you do not catch it early on. It affects about 6 to 9 percent of women while they are pregnant. In rare cases, if your gestational diabetes is not kept under control, it can even lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. Diabetic ketoacidosis can be extremely dangerous for both mothers and babies and can lead to complications during birth. This article discusses 7 things you need to know about gestational diabetes.

What is Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. Similar to other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes impacts the way that your body’s cells use sugar or glucose. For that reason, gestational diabetes can cause high blood sugar that may affect your pregnancy and your baby’s health. That is why it’s so important to know what can trigger gestational diabetes and how to detect it early, so you can work closely with your doctor to treat it and avoid any complications.

If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes during your pregnancy, your blood sugar levels will typically return to normal levels soon after you deliver your baby. However, women who have had gestational diabetes do carry a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes down the line. This means that you will need to be tested for changes in your blood sugar more frequently.

What Triggers Gestational Diabetes?

Researchers are still trying to get to the bottom of which factors can contribute to your likelihood of developing gestational diabetes. It is believed that carrying excess weight before you become pregnant can play a role. Other theories suggest that hormone imbalances that occur during pregnancy can sometimes make it difficult for your body to process sugar efficiently.

Some of the other common risk factors for gestational diabetes include:

  • Obesity
  • Not being physically active
  • Being prediabetic
  • Having gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Having a family history of diabetes
  • Delivering a baby over 9 pounds in a previous pregnancy

When Can You First Detect Gestational Diabetes?

Detecting and diagnosing gestational diabetes can be done at various points within your pregnancy. Your doctor will determine when you should be screened based on your risk level. For instance, if you are at average risk of gestational diabetes, it is likely that you won’t have a screening test until your second trimester, somewhere between 24 and 28 weeks. However, if you are at high risk, you will be tested much earlier. For high-risk patients, most doctors will test for gestational diabetes at their first prenatal check-up.

Common Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

In most cases, gestational diabetes does not cause any dramatic symptoms or tell-tale signs. Some possible symptoms include increased thirst and more frequent urination. However, these may be side effects of a normal pregnancy as well, so it is difficult to tell the difference. If you are worried that you may be at risk of gestational diabetes, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor to discuss your concerns. Being checked for gestational diabetes is a standard aspect of prenatal care in general so your doctor will be able to discuss this with you in detail during your regular check-ups.

If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you will require more frequent checkups with your doctor. These additional checkups will be the most frequent during the final three months of pregnancy. Here, your doctor will closely monitor your blood sugar and baby’s health to make sure everything is going smoothly.

How to Lower Your Risk of Gestational Diabetes

Although there is no guarantee that you will not be diagnosed with gestational diabetes at some point in your pregnancy, there are some ways for you to lower your risk of getting it. These lifestyle changes include eating healthy foods, staying active, starting your pregnancy at a healthy weight, and not gaining weight excessively during pregnancy. For these to be the most effective in helping you prevent gestational diabetes, you will want to implement them into your lifestyle before you become pregnant. With that said, other factors can still contribute to your risk of being diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

If you are already diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you can help control it and keep your symptoms at bay by eating healthy foods, exercising, and taking medication in some cases. Keeping your blood sugar at a healthy level is especially important because it can keep you and your baby healthy as well as prevent difficulties during delivery.

If you do not manage gestational diabetes properly, it can lead to high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels can result in major complications for you and your baby, including a higher likelihood of needing a C-section to deliver.

What is Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)

Diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA, is a serious complication of diabetes. This can be life-threatening if it is not recognized soon enough. Diabetic ketoacidosis develops over time when the body does not produce enough insulin to fulfill the body’s metabolic needs. In this state, the body shifts to converting fats into much needed fuel. As a result of this process, a build-up of acids in the bloodstream, called ketones, takes place. If too many ketones start producing too quickly, they can build up to dangerous levels causing the body to go into diabetic ketoacidosis.

Warning Signs of Diabetic Ketoacidosis in Pregnancy

The warning signs of diabetic ketoacidosis during pregnancy can be similar to other types of diabetic ketoacidosis. These early symptoms include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pains
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fruity or sweet-scented breath / sweat
  • Confusion

If you have gestational diabetes without knowing it, your risk of going into diabetic ketoacidosis may be increased. In fact, 30% of cases involving diabetic ketoacidosis occur in patients who are living with unrecognized, new-onset diabetes.


While there are certain instances where gestational diabetes can be controlled or avoided entirely through diet and exercise, this is certainly not always the case. Your health care provider should be able to recognize if you are at high risk and order the appropriate tests. If you have not received any testing in regards to gestational diabetes and feel you are at risk, the very best thing to do is ask your doctor right away.

Unfortunately, misdiagnosis, undiagnosed, or a delayed diagnosis of gestational diabetes does occur. If you suspect that you have had gestational diabetes that was not properly cared for, or have any questions or concerns regarding this article, call our law firm at 412-281-3000 or toll free at 1-888-MEDMAL1. We will be able to retrieve and analyze your records at no cost or charge to you.