Did you know that November is National Diabetes Month? It’s time to raise awareness about diabetes, and here at Aurora OB/GYN, board-certified OB/GYN Karen Allsup, FACOG, MD, is focusing on gestational diabetes, a condition that affects pregnant women.
If you’re an expectant mother or planning to become one, understanding your risk factors for gestational diabetes is essential. Read on as the Aurora OB-GYN team explores the risk factors associated with gestational diabetes and why it's crucial to be aware of them.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. It affects how your cells use sugar (glucose) and can cause high blood sugar levels. This condition can be managed and typically resolves after childbirth, but it’s important to be aware of the risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes.
Like Type 2 diabetes, some risk factors for gestational diabetes are controllable, and some aren’t. Risk factors include:
Being overweight or obese before pregnancy increases the risk of gestational diabetes. While weight gain is expected during pregnancy, Dr. Allsup may recommend target weight gain goals for you if you’re overweight. Gaining the right amount of weight can help you avoid the additional risks of developing gestational diabetes.
Women over the age of 25, especially those over 35, are at a higher risk. While you can’t change this risk factor, you can focus on the ones that are within your control.
If you have a family history of diabetes (Type 1 or Type 2), your risk may be elevated. If you’ve had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, your risk is higher in subsequent pregnancies.
Women with PCOS are often insulin resistant. This increases their risk of both Type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes. Your risk is even higher if you have PCOS and are overweight, according to research published in the journal Medicine.
Having high blood pressure before or during pregnancy can also increase your risk of developing gestational diabetes. Research indicates that the connection between high blood pressure and gestational diabetes is due to shared inflammation markers, endothelial dysfunction (your endothelium is the lining of your blood vessels), and insulin resistance.
Some ethnic groups, including African American, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian American individuals, have a higher risk of gestational diabetes.
Carrying twins, triplets, or more puts extra stress on the body and may increase the risk of gestational diabetes. The good news is that if you’re carrying more than one baby, you’ll receive more monitoring throughout your pregnancy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that between 2% and 10% of pregnant women are affected by gestational diabetes. Understanding your risk factors for gestational diabetes is important for several reasons:
Being aware of your risk can motivate you to adopt a healthier lifestyle before and during pregnancy. Making dietary and exercise changes can help reduce your risk.
Regular prenatal care includes screening for gestational diabetes. If you’re at an increased risk, Dr. Allsup closely monitors your blood sugar levels during pregnancy, which allows for early detection and management.
Even if you don’t have an elevated risk, routine prenatal care still includes a glucose tolerance test about halfway through your pregnancy.
Identifying and managing gestational diabetes can lower the risk of complications for both you and your baby, such as excessive birth weight, preterm birth, and the need for a cesarean section.
As our team observes National Diabetes Month, it’s crucial to recognize that gestational diabetes is a specific type of diabetes that can affect pregnant women. Understanding your risk factors and staying informed about this condition is essential for a healthy pregnancy. This helps you adopt the right prevention strategies, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
If you have concerns about your risk of developing gestational diabetes, talk to Dr. Allsup and discuss strategies for prevention and management.
Questions? Call Aurora OB-GYN at 210-547-4700 or use our online form to book your next prenatal appointment.