Blood Glucose Screening During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman talking to healthcare provider.

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that only pregnant women get. Changes in your body during pregnancy can cause high blood sugar (glucose). This can cause problems for you and your baby. It is a serious condition, but it can be controlled.

Who is at risk for gestational diabetes?

You are at risk of getting gestational diabetes if any of the following risk factors apply to you. The risk for gestational diabetes becomes higher as your number of risk factors increases:

  • You are Hispanic, African American, American Indian, Asian, or Pacific Islander.

  • You weigh more than your healthcare provider says is healthy for you.

  • You have a relative with diabetes.

  • You are older than age 25.

  • You had gestational diabetes during a past pregnancy.

  • You had a stillbirth or a very large baby before.

  • You have a history of abnormal glucose tolerance.

  • You have sugar in your urine at the first prenatal visit.

  • You have metabolic syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), currently use glucocorticoids, or have hypertension.

  • You have multiple gestation (twins, etc.).

What happens during a screening?

Here is what to expect during a blood glucose screening:

  • While conflicting recommendations for screening exist, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists currently recommends universal screening for gestational diabetes. Your risk for gestational diabetes will determine when you are screened. Women are tested at 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. Women at high risk may be tested when they first learn they are pregnant.

  • To do the screening, a blood sample is taken and your blood sugar level is measured.

  • If the results show a high blood sugar level, a glucose tolerance test may be ordered. You will drink a specific amount of sugar. This test measures the amount of time it takes for sugar to leave your blood. The test will determine if you have gestational diabetes.

What to know if you test positive

Here are some things you need to know:

  • Gestational diabetes is treatable. The best way to control gestational diabetes is to find out you have it as early as possible and start treatment quickly.

  • Gestational diabetes can cause problems for the mother during pregnancy. It can also cause problems with the baby during pregnancy, delivery, and after. Treatment greatly lowers the chance for problems.

  • The changes in your body that cause gestational diabetes normally happen only when you are pregnant. After the baby is born, your body goes back to normal and the condition goes away. You may be more likely to have type 2 diabetes later, though. So talk to your healthcare provider about ways to help prevent type 2 diabetes.

Treating gestational diabetes

Here is how to treat gestational diabetes:

  • You’ll need to check your blood sugar regularly. You can do this at home by pricking your finger and checking a drop of blood on a glucose monitor. Your healthcare provider will show you how and when to check your blood sugar and discuss your target blood sugar level.

  • To manage your blood sugar, you will be given a special plan. It will likely involve planning your meals and getting regular exercise. Some women need to take a hormone called insulin, or an oral hypoglycemic medicine to help control their blood sugar.