Gestational diabetes - symptoms, cause, tests and treatment

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During pregnancy, regular blood tests are done, among other things, to check your blood sugar level. Here you will find out more about how and why gestational diabetes can occur and how the disease is treated.

What is gestational diabetes?

During pregnancy, the body becomes insensitive to insulin, which means that the need for insulin increases. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas, it is needed for the cells to absorb sugar from the blood. If the pancreas is unable to produce after the increased need, the blood sugar can become too high, this happens in approximately 1-2% of all pregnant women. This is when you can get gestational diabetes.

Other forms of diabetes are type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes test - how to check your blood sugar level

Depending on where in Sweden you live, you may submit a blood test that takes place through a prick in the finger (capillary sampling) to check your blood sugar level. This is done one or more times during your pregnancy and the blood test is called P-glucose, if your blood sugar level is found to be high, follow-up testing can be done with a venous blood test which is done through a prick in the fold of the arm. Glucose is another word for blood sugar.

You may also undergo a glucose load where you have been fasting for a number of hours, after which you will be given a blood test and drink a sugar solution containing glucose and water. Two hours later, after you have rested and continued to fast, you will be given another blood test that will show your blood sugar level. The guidelines for glucose load look different depending on where in Sweden you live.

Reduce the risk of gestational diabetes

By being physically active and not gaining too much weight during your pregnancy, you can reduce your risk of getting gestational diabetes. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes after childbirth is also reduced by being physically active. Try to eat regularly and to keep regular intervals between meals.

Symptoms of gestational diabetes

An elevated blood sugar level causes only mild symptoms and is usually not something you notice. It is something that is discovered when you go for check-ups with the midwife. If your blood sugar level is very high, you may experience symptoms such as feeling tired, urinating more often and in larger quantities, and becoming thirsty.

If you experience the symptoms and are worried, you should contact your midwife for help.

Treatment for gestational diabetes

If it turns out that you have gestational diabetes, a diet with food that contains less sugar in combination with being physically active is usually enough. Treatment with drugs may be needed to lower the blood value if a low-sugar diet and physical activity are not enough.

During the last part of pregnancy, you are also usually examined with ultrasound several times if you have gestational diabetes to see if the fetus is growing as it should.

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