Does Gestational Diabetes Go Away?

Gestational diabetes during pregnancy will usually go away after the delivery. However, if this condition is not managed during the pregnancy, it can cause complications for you and your baby. The CDC says that in the United States, annually,  6% to 9% of pregnant women¹ develop this type of diabetes.

Normally, gestational diabetes doesn't always present symptoms, but your physician will be alerted if you are susceptible to this condition based on your medical history and risk factors.

If it's determined that you are at risk based on these factors, you will need to be tested at your first prenatal appointment. Without the risk factors, you would still be tested between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy.

Knowing what gestational diabetes is, how it can be prevented or avoided, and how it can be managed if you are diagnosed with this condition will help you have an uncomplicated pregnancy and a healthy baby.

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What is gestational diabetes?

During pregnancy, gestational diabetes can occur when your body becomes insulin resistant. This can happen because, while pregnant, your body is generating more hormones and making other changes, such as weight gain.

Insulin from the pancreas is released when blood sugar enters the bloodstream. The purpose of insulin is to help with the uptake of sugar into the cells, turning it into energy. Once the cells deplete the bloodstream of blood sugar, this signals the pancreas to stop releasing insulin.

During pregnancy, the placenta hormones reduce the effectiveness of insulin. As a result, your body's cells do not utilize insulin properly, causing a rise in blood sugar.

When the cells cannot receive more blood sugar, the liver and muscles take on the extra blood sugar. But, eventually, with insulin still flooding the bloodstream, the liver and muscles will come to a point when they cannot accept any more blood sugar either, and the excess blood sugar is then dispensed to fat cells. The fat cells store the blood sugar as body fat, contributing to weight gain.

Gestational diabetes causes and risk factors

In the later stages of the pregnancy, all women have some level of insulin resistance. However, if you have insulin resistance even before the pregnancy, you're more likely to develop gestational diabetes. Also, if you are overweight or physically inactive before the pregnancy, this will further increase the chances of developing gestational diabetes.

Other risk factors could contribute to an increased possibility of having gestational diabetes during your pregnancy:

  • If you are 25 years or older

  • If you have a family history of type 2 diabetes

  • If you have a hormone disorder called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

  • If you are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander

  • If, in a prior pregnancy, you gave birth to a baby who was nine pounds or more

  • If, in a prior pregnancy, you had gestational diabetes

Will gestational diabetes go away?

In most cases, gestational diabetes will go away after delivery, when blood sugar levels return to normal not long after the birth of the baby. Six to twelve weeks after the delivery, you should have your blood tested to be sure that your blood sugar level is back to normal.

If blood sugar levels are still higher than normal, consider:

  • Continuing to eat a healthy diet

  • Continuing to exercise regularly

  • Continuing to lose extra weight if you are overweight

Can gestational diabetes come back?

Gestational diabetes can be present during future pregnancies, especially if you have risk factors that contribute to a higher possibility. Having gestational diabetes in prior pregnancies puts you at a  36% risk² of you developing this condition in future pregnancies.

Also, be aware that 50% of women³ who have had gestational diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes later. So, it's important that you get tested not only after six to twelve weeks after you gave birth but also for everyone -to three years thereafter.

Risk factors that may provide a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes after having your baby are:

  • If gestational diabetes emerges before the 24th week of pregnancy

  • If your blood sugar was constantly on the high end of a healthy range during pregnancy

  • If your blood sugar levels were higher than average after the baby was born

Can gestational diabetes be prevented or avoided?

Steps to reduce gestational diabetes can be implemented in the planning stages of pregnancy. If you are trying to get pregnant, get a blood test before becoming pregnant to make sure your blood sugar levels are normal.

Eating a healthy diet, being physically active, and losing extra weight if you are overweight, before and during the pregnancy will help prevent or avoid gestational diabetes. Once the pregnancy is underway, your doctor will test you for this condition between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy or during the first antenatal visit if you have an increased risk.

What's the best way to manage it?

Once you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, a management plan should be put in place. The best things you can do are maintain your healthy eating plan, continue the regular physical activity, and only gain the recommended amount of weight throughout the pregnancy. Insulin may also be prescribed and taken to aid in managing this condition.

Testing and monitoring are key to managing this condition as well. Regular blood sugar monitoring throughout the pregnancy, monitoring the fetus, taking prescribed medications for gestational diabetes, and ensuring that post-delivery testing, are important for managing gestational diabetes.

Manage your weight gain

Of course, weight gain is inevitable during pregnancy, but too much extra weight may create or exacerbate a gestational diabetes condition. You can track your weight gain from the beginning of the pregnancy and throughout and compare them to the recommended ranges based on your prepregnancy body mass index.

Here are some recommended weight gain ranges when having only one baby:

  • If you were underweight (BMI less than 18.5) before the pregnancy, the healthy recommended weight gain is between 28 and 40 lbs.

  • If you were at an average weight (BMI of 18.5–24.9) before the pregnancy, the healthy recommended weight gain is between 25 and 35 lbs.

  • If you were overweight (BMI greater or equal to 25.0–29.9) before the pregnancy, the healthy recommended weight gain is between 15 and 25 lbs.

  • If you were obese (BMI equal to or greater than 30.0) before the pregnancy, the healthy recommended weight gain is 11 to 20 lbs.

When having twins, the recommended weight gain maximum can be approximately 22–25 lbs. more than the recommended maximum for one baby.

To manage your weight gain, it's important to know your calorie needs. No extra calories, other than what you take in to maintain a healthy weight, are needed in the first three months of the pregnancy.

The second three months normally require 340 additional calories per day, while the third three months typically require 450 extra calories per day.

Maintain a healthy diet

Eating a balanced, healthy diet can manage your gestational diabetes and provide healthy nourishment for your baby. Added sugars and solid fats in foods like soft drinks, desserts, fried foods, whole milk, and fatty meats should be limited.

A balanced, healthy diet menu consists of:

  • Whole grains

  • Vegetables

  • Fruits

  • Low-fat dairy

  • Lean protein

Maintain regular physical activity

The third part of managing your gestational diabetes is regular exercise. For example, brisk walking or equivalent moderate aerobic activity for at least 150 minutes a week, ten or more minutes, will manage your condition, keep your body strong, and make your weight gain more manageable. But, be sure to talk to your doctor to determine if you have any restrictions on physical activity.

It's important to note that if your blood sugar continues to be high during your pregnancy, you may have to take insulin to bring it down to an acceptable, consistent level.

The lowdown

Gestational diabetes, a condition of insulin resistance, is a condition you may have to deal with during your pregnancy, but you likely won't have to.

Putting in place preventive measures, such as healthy eating, regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight before your pregnancy, will reduce your chances of developing gestational diabetes.

However, suppose you have risk factors that increase your possibility of developing this condition during pregnancy, it's a condition that will have minimal effects on you or your baby as long as the condition is managed through healthy eating, physical activity, and manageable weight gain.

And, in most cases, gestational diabetes goes away after the delivery of your baby, leaving you and your baby healthy and happy.

  1. Diabetes during pregnancy | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  2. Gestational diabetes and your health after your baby is born | Yale Health

  3. Gestational diabetes | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Other sources:

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