Understanding the Signs and Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

signs and symptoms of gestation diabetes a pregnant women leaning on desk in a pink and white shirt looking tired

Pregnancy is a transformative journey filled with excitement and anticipation, but many screening tests come with this exciting journey. One condition that comes with many emotions is gestational diabetes. Anxiety can be high when wondering whether this pregnancy will come with the tracking and extra care gestational diabetes brings. Understanding the signs and symptoms of gestational diabetes can help ease people’s minds on whether they are likely experiencing high blood sugar.

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy due to placental hormones and usually disappears after giving birth. It occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels effectively. While it can affect any pregnant person, certain factors increase the risk, such as obesity, a family history of diabetes, PCOS, or previous instances of gestational diabetes.

The Importance of Early Detection

Early detection and management of gestational diabetes are vital to prevent complications for both the mother and the baby. Untreated gestational diabetes can lead to high blood pressure, preterm birth, and a higher likelihood of requiring a cesarean section. For the baby, it can result in excessive birth weight, respiratory distress syndrome, and a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Common Signs and Symptoms

Gestational diabetes often presents no noticeable symptoms, making regular screening tests during pregnancy essential. However, there are some gestational diabetes signs and symptoms that pregnant people should be aware of:

1. Increased Thirst

One of the most common signs of gestational diabetes is excessive thirst. If you find yourself feeling unusually thirsty and drinking more fluids than usual without relief, it could be a sign that your blood sugar levels are too high.

2. Frequent Urination

Increased urination is another symptom. While frequent trips to the bathroom are common during pregnancy, a noticeable increase could indicate your body is trying to expel excess glucose through urine.

3. Fatigue

Pregnancy is naturally tiring, but extreme fatigue that doesn’t seem to improve with rest can be a sign of gestational diabetes. High blood sugar levels can cause feelings of tiredness and lack of energy.

4. Blurred Vision

High blood sugar levels can lead to fluid being pulled from the lenses of your eyes, resulting in blurred vision. If you experience sudden changes in your vision, it’s important to consult your healthcare provider.

5. Nausea and Vomiting

While nausea and vomiting are common in pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, severe or persistent symptoms could be a sign of gestational diabetes. High blood sugar levels can cause gastrointestinal distress.

6. Recurring Infections

Bacteria love sugar. Gestational diabetes can make you more susceptible to infections, particularly urinary tract infections (UTIs) and yeast infections. If you experience frequent infections, it’s worth discussing with your healthcare provider.

7. Unusual Weight Gain

While weight gain is a normal part of pregnancy, sudden and excessive weight gain can be a sign of gestational diabetes. Monitoring your weight and discussing any concerns with your healthcare provider is crucial.

It can be tricky knowing whether these symptoms are pregnancy-related or gestational diabetes related. It is best always to ask your physician and report all symptoms.

Risk Factors to Be Aware Of

Understanding the risk factors for gestational diabetes can help in taking preventive measures. Some common risk factors, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having a family history of diabetes
  • Being over the age of 25
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Previous history of gestational diabetes in an earlier pregnancy
  • Being of certain ethnic backgrounds, such as African-American, Hispanic, Native American, or Asian.

Managing Gestational Diabetes

If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it’s important to follow your healthcare provider’s advice to manage the condition effectively. Make sure to check out all my free gestational diabetes diet info on this website and Instagram, and sign up for my course to learn exactly what to do to manage gestational diabetes. Below is a summary of some common management strategies:

1. Healthy Diet

A balanced diet is crucial in managing gestational diabetes. Focus on eating a variety of foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins. Limiting sugar and refined carbohydrates is essential to control blood sugar levels. You can read more about how to eat to prevent gestational diabetes in my blog here.

2. Regular Exercise

Regular physical activity helps your body use insulin more efficiently. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week, such as walking, swimming, or prenatal yoga. Exercise will help regulate your blood sugar and help you during delivery. 

3. Monitoring Blood Sugar Levels

Your healthcare provider will guide you on monitoring your blood sugar levels at home. Keeping track of your levels will help you and your provider make necessary adjustments to your management plan.

Before you are diagnosed, If you are curious whether your blood sugars are high, you can always check your blood sugar fasting and 1 hour after you start each meal. You can ask for a glucometer kit prescription from your doctor or go to your local Walmart or Target and find a generic one for about $20-30. 

4. Medication

Sometimes, diet and exercise may not be enough to control blood sugar levels. Your healthcare provider might prescribe insulin or other medications to help manage your gestational diabetes.

5. Regular Prenatal Checkups

Frequent prenatal visits are essential for monitoring the health of both mother and baby. These checkups will help your healthcare provider track your blood sugar levels and adjust your treatment plan as needed.

For my gestational diabetes patients, I will meet with them weekly to biweekly, depending on their control. 

Conclusion

Gestational diabetes is a manageable condition with proper care and attention. Being aware of the gestational diabetes signs and symptoms, understanding your risk factors, and following your healthcare provider’s recommendations can help ensure a healthy pregnancy for you and your baby. Remember, regular prenatal checkups and open communication with your healthcare provider are key to managing gestational diabetes effectively.

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Ginger Cochran is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, functional medicine practitioner, Certified Diabetes Educator & Care Specialist, Certified Wellness Coach, Certified Exercise Physiologist, and owner of Nutritious Ginger, an integrative and functional nutrition practice focusing on full body self-care and nourishment. Ginger’s primary specialty is women’s health, with a special emphasis on gestational diabetes, weight management, infertility, digestive wellness, and overall health + happiness.
Ginger serves on the board of director for the Nutrition Care Manual by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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