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Gestational Diabetes

In most healthy females, pregnancies progress without any complications. However, in some cases, pregnant women can experience issues caused by certain health conditions. Some of these issues are normal and get better on their own, whereas others are related to health complications and require immediate attention. Gestational diabetes is one of the most common pregnancy-related complications. Here’s what you need to know about this health condition:

What is gestational diabetes?

Pregnancy changes a lot of bodily functions in a woman, and the way the body breaks down sugar consumed in food is also one of them. Gestational diabetes, as the name suggests, is a condition in which a pregnant female’s blood glucose level goes up, followed by other diabetic symptoms. This condition can also occur in females who have normal blood sugar levels before getting pregnant. Also known as gestational diabetes mellitus, this condition generally goes away after childbirth. Although one can control gestational diabetes with a healthy diet, in some cases the blood glucose levels get excessively high, and the doctor may suggest some medicines to control the condition.


It is not necessary that every pregnant female with this condition experience some symptoms. However, if a female does, she will start showing signs of gestational diabetes in the third trimester (between 24 and 28 weeks) of pregnancy. Here are a few common symptoms of gestational diabetes:

  • Frequent Urination
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive Thirst
  • Constant Lethargy
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry Vision
  • Yeast Infections

Causes of Gestational Diabetes

The main cause of diabetes during pregnancy is the hormonal changes a woman goes through. It also changes the way an individual’s body converts food into energy. Insulin is a hormone in the human body that is responsible for breaking down the sugar consumed in the form of food and delivering it to the cells. This also helps the body keep its blood sugar at a healthy level. If, for any reason, the human body stops producing insulin in the required amounts, sugar starts building up in the bloodstream, leading to diabetes.

During pregnancy, a number of hormones get produced in higher quantities, and some of them can interfere with the way insulin works. This is the reason why it stops regulating blood sugar levels, which can lead to gestational diabetes. To avoid this, pregnant women should avoid consuming food items with high sugar content.

Risk Factors

Although gestational diabetes is a condition that anyone can develop during pregnancy, there are a few factors that put a female at a higher risk. Some of them are:

  • Heart Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Sedentary Lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • Personal or Family History
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  • Pre-diabetes


If not treated on time, gestational diabetes can lead to several complications for both the mother and the fetus.

For Mother:

  • Preeclampsia (a condition causing high blood pressure during pregnancy)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • C-section

For Fetus:

  • Increased birth weight
  • Breathing problem at the time of birth
  • Hypoglycemia (which can cause seizures)
  • Premature birth
  • Obesity
  • Risk of type-2 diabetes later in life


As a part of prenatal screening, a pregnant female needs to get several blood tests done, the GTT and OGTT tests being among them. These two tests are performed to diagnose gestational diabetes.

GTT, or Glucose Challenge Test

Also known as the one-hour glucose tolerance test, this test is an important part of prenatal screening. It helps to measure a female’s body sugar (glucose). This test requires overnight fasting, and then the pregnant woman has to drink a certain quantity of a sweet liquid before 1 hour of sample collection. If the test report for the GTT test in pregnancy shows a blood sugar level higher than 140 mg/dL, another blood test, the oral glucose tolerance test, is required.

OGTT, or Oral Glucose Tolerance Test

Similar to the GTT test, this blood test also requires 8–10 hours of fasting. In this test, a blood sample is taken after 2 hours of having a glucose-containing drink. If this test also indicates high blood sugar levels (200 mg/dL or above), this serves as a confirmation of gestational diabetes. However, the blood glucose level range for gestational diabetes can vary from one female to another depending on several factors.

Females who have a history of gestational diabetes are advised to get an oral glucose tolerance test, or OGTT, at an early stage of their pregnancy. It is followed by another oral glucose tolerance test between 24 and 28 weeks.


If a pregnant female is diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it is important to consult the doctor immediately. He or she will suggest any further testing or an appropriate course to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Generally, women diagnosed with gestational diabetes may need more frequent checkups throughout their pregnancy. This helps the doctor keep a check on blood sugar levels. In some cases, the obstetrician may also ask to monitor the blood sugar levels at home with a glucose meter.

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