Gestational diabetes (GDM) is when you develop high blood sugar during pregnancy, otherwise known as gestation. It typically can lead to some complications during pregnancy. As with other types of diabetes, it is best managed by frequent testing of your gestational diabetes blood sugar levels.
Gestational diabetes affects approximately 10% of pregnant women in the U.S. every year. So if you’ve been recently diagnosed, know you’re not alone. The good news is gestational diabetes can be managed through frequent blood sugar monitoring, diet changes, exercise, and other lifestyle factors such as improving sleep.
If you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and don’t know where to start, this article is for you.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes consists of elevated blood glucose (i.e., blood sugar) levels and insulin resistance during pregnancy. It often affects women who have no previous history of diabetes.
GDM is typically diagnosed during pregnancy from a glucose tolerance test administered around weeks 24-28. If there is a history of gestational diabetes in a past pregnancy, it would likely be tested sooner, around the 6-8 week mark.
Elevated blood sugar during pregnancy doesn’t usually cause obvious symptoms, which is why it is important to get tested. It is essential to monitor your gestational diabetes glucose levels frequently and test your blood sugar levels at home regularly. Our DigiVibe device can help make those frequent fingerpricks pain-free.
What Causes Gestational Diabetes?
While the root cause of gestational diabetes is not always known, there is awareness around several potential risk factors associated with GDM. During pregnancy, even without a diagnosis of gestational diabetes, there is always some level of insulin resistance occurring. This is your body’s attempt to keep more glucose in your blood to nourish your growing baby.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can also lead to increased insulin resistance, the driving factor for diabetes. This insulin resistance makes it harder for the body to get glucose out of the blood and into the cells where it is used for energy. Blood sugar remains in the blood with GDM and builds up above healthy levels. In addition, the mother’s body often has difficulty making enough insulin to control blood sugar levels and, therefore, cannot manage the levels effectively.
How is Gestational Diabetes Diagnosed?
There are two main methods used to test for gestational diabetes glucose levels. One is the Glucose Challenge Test, and the other is the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT). You may take either test depending on your doctor, but typically the glucose challenge test is done first.
If you fail the glucose challenge test, the OGTT will then be administered.
The Glucose Challenge Test involves drinking a liquid solution of 50 grams of carbohydrate. Your blood is then drawn 1 hour later to check your blood glucose levels. Fasting beforehand is not required.
The Oral Glucose Tolerance Test requires fasting for at least 8 hours. Next, you must drink a liquid solution of 75 grams of carbohydrate.
A glucose level of 140 mg/dL or higher on either test results indicates a gestational diabetes diagnosis.
If you are diagnosed, monitoring your gestational diabetes blood sugar levels is key to managing it and keeping levels under control. Generally speaking, if you are aware of your blood sugar levels, you can act accordingly and improve them to support optimal health for you and your growing baby.
Optimal Gestational Diabetes Blood Sugar Levels
Even though a gestational diabetes diagnosis can feel scary, it can be managed and even reversed with the right strategy.
The first step is knowing what your gestational diabetes blood sugar levels should be.
Recommended daily target blood glucose levels for most women with gestational diabetes:
- Before meals, at bedtime, and overnight: 95 mg/dL or less
- 1 hour after eating: 140 mg/dL or less
- 2 hours after eating: 120 mg/dL or less
These are general recommendations to start. Always consult with your doctor for more individualized recommendations.
Gestational Diabetes – When to Test Blood Sugar
Knowing when and how to test your blood sugar is an essential component of managing gestational diabetes. Testing your blood sugar levels frequently gives you vital information on how your levels are being controlled throughout the day, what is affecting them, and how they can be better managed. It’s also helpful to keep a journal of each blood sugar check to monitor trends and review with your doctor.
Test your blood sugar levels several times throughout the day, according to your doctor’s orders. This is done using a lancet. The lancet pricks your finger to draw a small amount of blood you can use to test blood sugar levels. If you are afraid of needles or the pain involved, our DigiVibe device can make the experience pain-free.
Recommended times to check blood sugar may include:
- First thing in the morning (fasted)
- 1-2 hours after each meal
- Other times throughout the day, as per your doctor’s orders
Always ask your doctor what schedule is best for you and what your glucose testing range during pregnancy should be.
The Importance of Blood Glucose Monitoring
And while the importance of blood glucose monitoring cannot be overstated, we understand that it is not always easy. It may feel intimidating to prick your finger, especially if you’ve never done it before. Or maybe you’ve already done it and are reluctant to prick again because it has hurt you in the past.
Fear of pain from finger pricks is one of the biggest barriers to successfully managing gestational diabetes. But vibration technology can help. DigiVibe is an affordable and compact vibration device that takes the pain out of finger pricks.
- Gestational Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. August 10, 2021. Accessed June 15, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/gestational.html
- Quintanilla Rodriguez BS, Mahdy H. Gestational Diabetes. [Updated 2022 Feb 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK545196
- Momin MA, Hashimoto K, Honda K, Yosue T (2014) The Effects of Vibration on Pain and Anxiety during Local Anesthesia Administration. JSM Dent 2(1): 1022.