Gestational Diabetes Treatment Overview
First steps to consider
- If you are pregnant, you should be getting prenatal care from a healthcare provider, who will monitor and treat you for gestational diabetes.
- A provider may prescribe medication to lower your blood sugar levels.
- In some cases, exercise and dietary changes may be all that is needed to treat gestational diabetes.
Go to the ER if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Sudden sleepiness and confusion
- Loss of consciousness
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When to see a healthcare provider
You should always see a healthcare provider for prenatal care, which includes screening for gestational diabetes. It is common to undergo screening between 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy.
You should also call your provider if you develop symptoms of gestational diabetes, which could include blurred vision, urinating more often than usual, and increased thirst.
It’s very important for gestational diabetes to be treated because it can have harmful effects on you and your baby. The condition can raise your risk of high blood pressure, preeclampsia, having a surgical delivery (C-section), and developing the condition again during a future pregnancy. It can also lead to complications for the pregnancy and your newborn.
- Gestational diabetes is diagnosed by using a glucose challenge test. One hour after you drink a liquid that contains glucose, your blood is drawn and blood sugar levels are measured.
- Another option is the oral glucose tolerance test. It is similar to the glucose challenge test but your blood is drawn every hour for 2–3 hours after you drink the sweet liquid.
What to expect from your doctor visit
- Most women with gestational diabetes are asked to monitor their blood glucose levels on a regular basis, usually multiple times per day. Your provider can tell how well the blood sugar is being controlled and decide what treatments to recommend.
- If dietary changes and exercise aren’t controlling your blood sugar, your provider may prescribe medication to lower it, like metformin (Glucophage, Glumetza) or glyburide (Diabeta, Glynase).
- If blood sugar levels still remain high, insulin may be added to your treatment.
- Some providers may recommend that you deliver your baby at a certain gestational age, typically 39 weeks. This can reduce the risk of labor and delivery complications compared to waiting for a later date. Your provider may discuss inducing labor or having a scheduled Cesarean section (surgical removal of the infant through an incision in your abdomen) to avoid some of the complications of a vaginal delivery.
Prescription gestational diabetes medications
- Metformin (Glucophage, Glumetza)
- Glyburide (Diabeta, Glynase)
- Insulin injections: lispro (Humalog), aspart (Novolog), NPH (Novolin), glargine (Lantus), detemir (Levemir)
Types of gestational diabetes providers
- An ob-gyn, who specializes in pregnancy and female reproductive health, can screen for gestational diabetes and help treat the condition.
- Nurse midwives specialize in prenatal care and can screen for gestational diabetes.
- You may be referred to other providers who specialize in diabetes, like an endocrinologist (a doctor who focuses on hormone problems), registered dietitian, and certified diabetes care and education specialist.
Treating gestational diabetes at home
If you’re pregnant, always see a healthcare provider for prenatal care. They will monitor you for gestational diabetes as part of the routine care. You must see your provider if you start having symptoms of gestational diabetes, which include blurred vision, urinating more often than usual, and increased thirst.
In some cases, exercise and dietary changes may be all that is needed to treat gestational diabetes.
Tips for treating gestational diabetes
- Eat a healthy diet. Get plenty of fruits and vegetables and moderate amounts of lean protein, healthy fats (avocado, nuts), and whole grains.
- Avoid food and drinks that contain a lot of added sugar, like juice, soda, and sweets.
- Try to limit the amount of simple carbohydrates you eat, like potatoes and white rice.
- Avoid foods that are high in saturated fat, which include butter, fried foods, hamburgers, bacon, and cheese.
- Use healthy cooking oils like canola oil or olive oil.
- Don’t skip meals. Eating regularly can help keep blood sugar levels steady.
- Be active. Most women with gestational diabetes find that exercise makes a difference, especially exercise that builds muscle mass. Muscle increases the body’s sensitivity to the hormone insulin, helping to normalize blood sugar levels.
Wellness and prevention
Gestational diabetes can’t always be prevented because some risk factors are not in your control, like family history and race. But there are ways you can reduce the risk, including:
- Maintaining a healthy blood pressure
- Losing weight if you’re overweight
- Trying not to gain more weight than what is recommended when pregnant