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Gestational diabetes and risk factors

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Gestational diabetes is a form of type 2 diabetes that is only present during pregnancy.

The condition is only seen in the third trimester of a woman’s pregnancy; if a screening test reveals a woman has diabetes during the first trimester, it is most likely a form of type 2 diabetes that was present before the pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes can be very serious if not treated properly, as it increases risk of preeclampsia in the mother, large birth weight, postnatal hypoglycemia, jaundice, and still birth. Therefore it is important for women to know the main risk factors for the condition, which include:

  • Body Weight -- The higher an individual’s body mass index (BMI), the higher the risk for gestational diabetes. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy is also a risk factor.
  • Ethnicity -- Individuals with Hispanic, African, Native American, South or East Asian and Pacific Island ancestry all have greater risk.
  • Family History -- Having a close family history of Type 2 diabetes puts an individual at greater risk.

The condition is often asymptomatic. Therefore, standard practice recommends that all pregnant women get screened for it during the third trimester of their pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is diagnosed through a glucose tolerance test that measures the level of glucose in the blood, which may be followed by additional testing if the results from the original test are abnormal.

If a woman is diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it is important that she receives the proper prenatal and postnatal care to ensure her safety, as well as the baby’s. Fortunately, Cone Health’s Center of Excellence in Women’s Health has an exceptional network of obstetrics and gynecology specialists dedicated to providing the best care possible for women with gestational diabetes.

Spokesperson Background:

Dr. Michelle Horvath is an obstetrics and gynecology specialist at Green Valley OB/GYN & Infertility and a member of the Cone Health medical staff. Dr. Horvath is a 1995 graduate of the University of Virginia Health System. She completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas – Houston.