Gestational diabetes is a form of type 2 diabetes that is only present during pregnancy, but having gestational diabetes puts a woman at elevated risk of developing diabetes outside of pregnancy in the future. Gestational diabetes can be very serious if not treated properly, as it increases risk of injury to the mother and baby. 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.
- History of gestational diabetes – If a woman had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, she is more likely to have it again.
- Previous birth of an infant over 9 pounds – Giving birth to a bigger baby can be a sign of high blood sugar in the mom.
- 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.
- Age – As women age, their risk of experiencing gestational diabetes increases.
Since the condition is often asymptomatic, or has no symptoms, standard practice recommends that all pregnant women get screened for it during the third trimester of their pregnancy or earlier if they are high risk. 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 during her pregnancy, it is important that she receives the proper prenatal and postnatal care to ensure her safety, as well as her baby’s.
To help monitor expecting moms with diabetes, Cone Health offers the Babyscripts program. This program uses a special app that connects to a portal that her physician can access to monitor her levels. Every time a woman checks her glucose levels, she can enter her results into the app for her OB/GYN to see. Using Babyscripts, her doctor can see changes in levels in real time and check in on the mom if anything seems abnormal, rather than waiting the 2 weeks between traditional appointments. This allows the patient and physician to work more closely to control blood sugar levels and keep both mom and baby as healthy as possible.
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.
Kelly Leggett, MD, specializes in obstetrics and gynecology at the Center for Women's Healthcare and is the clinical transformation officer for Cone Health. She is a 2000 graduate of Wake Forest University School of Medicine and completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.