By Dr. Kelley Struble
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops in pregnant women. It occurs when the body can't produce enough insulin during pregnancy.
Symptoms of gestational diabetes can include feeling thirsty, feeling hungry, having a dry mouth, urinating often, and being tired. Because these symptoms typically occur with pregnancy anyways, the diagnosis of gestational diabetes is usually made by lab work that is routinely performed during pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes usually develops during the sixth month of pregnancy or later, and this is usually when the mother will be tested for this condition. Mothers who are at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes may be tested sooner than that. Typically, a glucose screening test is performed, which consists of drinking a liquid that contains glucose (sugar), and blood is drawn one hour afterwards to assess the blood glucose level. Depending on the results of the blood glucose level, a glucose tolerance test may be performed.
A glucose tolerance test can consist of several steps. First, the mother will be asked to fast (not eat) the night before the test. Then, blood is drawn the next morning while the mother is still fasting. The mother will then drink the liquid glucose again and have labs drawn one hour, two hours, and three hours afterward. The lab measures the blood glucose levels at each of these intervals. The diagnosis of gestational diabetes is confirmed based on the results of these tests.