Being Diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes

Rebecca McPhee
Dietitian Member of the DAA


3 Minutes

Any woman can tell you that pregnancy is a rollercoaster ride of emotions, from the thrill of announcing that little tiny feet are on their way, to the fear of labour. The day you receive the test results from your gestational diabetes test can be a bit of a nervous wait.  

Gestational diabetes is usually tested between 24 and 28 weeks of falling pregnant as the symptoms are not always visible. If you're one of the one in seven women diagnosed with gestational diabetes, don't worry, you haven't done anything wrong, and you are not alone. Rates of gestational diabetes are higher in Canberra, so there are a lot of local women just like you!  

 

What is gestational diabetes?  

 

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy when the hormones produced by the placenta block the action of a women's insulin in regulating blood sugar levels. Irregular blood sugar levels can lead to some complications including early labour, bigger babies and high blood pressure for mums - among others.

Gestational diabetes usually goes away when the baby is born; however, research shows that you have a 30-69%% risk of gestational diabetes reoccuring in future pregnancies and 50% risk of developing type 2 diabetes within 10-20 years.

The good news is that in most cases, gestational diabetes can be managed, ensuring a healthy mum and bub – which is why testing is so important. Here are the steps to being tested and diagnosed: 

 

1. Initial risk assessment 

If you have any of the risk factors for developing gestational diabetes, your doctor may refer you to have the test earlier. Risk factors includevi:  

  • Previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes or high blood sugar levels. 

  • Strong family history of type 2 diabetes. 

  • Being over the age of 40. 

  • Being from specific ethnic backgrounds. 

  • Being above the healthy weight range. 

  • Have gained weight too rapidly in the first half of pregnancy. 

  • Having polycystic ovarian syndrome. 

  • Taking some types of antipsychotic or steroid medications. 

 

2. Fasting blood glucose test - Part One 

There are 2 parts to diagnosing Gestational diabetes. The first part is doing a fasting blood test to measure your fasting blood glucose (sugar) level. You will need to fast overnight (not eat anything) before having this test. Many women choose to go for the test in the morning after fasting overnight and skipping breakfast. 

 

3. Oral Glucose Tolerance Test – Part Two 

Next, you will drink a sugary drink which is pure glucose and will wait to be tested again in another two hours during which time you are unable to eat or drink anything except water. Be sure to make use of this time by bringing a good book or some earphone to listen to your favourite podcast - who knows when you will get another uninterrupted moment to yourself!  

 

4. The Test Results 

Your doctor will be able to give you your test results either later the same day or within 48 hours. If your blood sugar level is above the normal range at your fasting, one or two-hour test, then you have gestational diabetes.  

A diagnosis of GDM is made if one or more of the following glucose levels is elevated;   

 

· Fasting glucose ≥ 5.1mmol/L   

 

· 1‐hr glucose ≥ 10.0mmol/L  

 

· 2‐hr glucose ≥ 8.5mmol/L       

 

Source: Australian Diabetes in Pregnancy Society (ADIPS) criteria for the diagnosis of gestational diabetes.  

 

5. Managing Your Diagnosis  

If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, there are many steps you can take to help manage your blood glucose levels to lessen the impact on you and your baby's health. These could be through lifestyle changes around diet and exercise or could be through medication. Your health professional will discuss the best options for your circumstances – and there are many people available to help, including diabetes educators, pharmacists, your GP and even endocrinologists.    

 

Summary 

  • A diagnosis of gestational diabetes can be serious, but in most cases, can be managed. 

  • The diagnosis is made by doing a blood sugar test, usually between 24 and 28 weeks.   

  • The test involves two blood tests taken after fasting and after drinking a glucose drink to see how your body responds.  

  • If you are diagnosed, there are lots of options to help manage the condition and many support services available.  

 

For more information about support services, diabetes recipes, practical workouts, tips and events and so much more, join the Capital Chicks CANberra online community today.  


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