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Pregnancy Weight Gain and the Risk of Gestational Diabetes

Pregnancy is a time of tremendous change for any expectant mother. With the anticipation of a new member of the family arriving come prenatal appointments, sharing the big news and pregnancy cravings, for many mothers. However, it is not always a good thing to indulge in those cravings, health care providers recommend, especially early in the pregnancy. Too much weight gain in the first trimester of pregnancy (before 13 weeks) can increase the risk for developing gestational diabetes by 50 percent. In general, expectant mothers should gain about two to four pounds in the first three months of pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes is a condition in which the mother produces too much insulin (sugar) in her blood. It typically develops around 24 weeks of pregnancy and is one of the most common problems during pregnancy. Not only are there added health risks to the mother, but the baby as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 9.2 percent of pregnancy women in 2014 developed gestational diabetes.

Many pregnant women do not notice signs of gestational diabetes during their pregnancy. One of the routine screenings to test for gestational diabetes is a glucose screening test. For this test, pregnant women drink a thick syrup solution and an hour later, their blood is tested to determine the blood sugar level. A blood sugar level below 130 to 140 is often considered normal. Anything above this number will usually require follow-up glucose testing.

It is important to keep in mind that any pregnant woman is at risk for gestational diabetes, but especially those with the following risk factors:

1) Age greater than 25: Women over the age of 25 are more likely to be at risk for gestational diabetes.

2) Family or personal health history: You are at risk for gestational diabetes if you have pre-diabetes, which is slightly elevated blood sugar that is a precursor to Type 2 diabetes, or if a close family member, such as a parent or sibling has Type 2 diabetes. Moreover, if you have had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, you are at greater risk.

3) Excess weight: You are more likely to get gestational diabetes if you are overweight.

4) Non-white race: For an unknown reason, women who are black, Hispanic, American Indian, or Asian, are at a greater risk for developing gestational diabetes.

There are several complications that can occur when the mother has gestational diabetes, however most women go on to deliver healthy babies. Some complications to baby include excess birth weight, low blood sugar, Type 2 diabetes later on in life, preterm birth and respiratory distress syndrome. Added risks to the mother include increasing mother’s blood pressure during pregnancy, increased risk of developing diabetes and heart disease later in life. It is always important for expectant mothers to receive prenatal care throughout the pregnancy to help manage conditions such as gestational diabetes and to help give mom and baby the healthiest pregnancy possible.

Learn more about our Labor of Love program and free pregnancy perks available by clicking here