Signs & Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

Carbohydrates are broken down during digestion into glucose. This substance moves into your blood and a hormone called insulin transfers the glucose to the body cells to give your body energy. People with diabetes either have a problem with insulin production or the cells aren’t able to use the insulin which causes glucose to buildup in the blood. According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, gestational diabetes affects anywhere from three to eight out of 100 women in the United States. This condition is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy but typically resolves after the baby is born. Its symptoms are similar to those of diabetes mellitus.

Increased Appetite

An increased appetite can indicate gestational diabetes, but despite this symptom, a pregnant woman may also lose weight. The body responds to the high level of insulin in the blood by producing and releasing more insulin. One action of insulin is to stimulate the appetite, which means that a higher level of insulin leads to an increased hunger. If the cells aren’t able to use the insulin, the level of glucose in the blood will continue to build up, so the body breaks down the muscles and fat stores as a way to get the required energy to the cells. The pregnant woman may lose weight as these tissues shrink as well as feel constantly fatigued or lethargic, since this action causes the body to use more energy.

Excessive Thirst and Urination

A pregnant woman with gestational diabetes may have an increased thirst since the body craves liquids to help dilute the excess glucose in the blood. The body also moves liquids from the body tissues to help dilute the blood. For example, the body can pull fluid from the lenses of the eyes. This action can affect the way the eyes focus, which causes blurred vision. The increased fluid intake causes the pregnant women to pass large, excessive amounts of urine, which is different than the frequent passing of small amounts of urine that is typical of pregnancy. Diagnostic testing at the physician’s office can reveal high amounts of glucose in the urine.
Infections

Since diabetes interferes with the body’s ability to fight infections, the pregnant woman may experience frequent infections in areas such as the bladder, vagina and skin. White blood cells defend the body against bacteria, but these cells aren’t able to function normally when a person has a high blood sugar. A woman with gestational diabetes may also complain of a yeast infection in the vagina or on the skin. Yeast cells are normally present in the vaginal area in small amounts. The vaginal secretions and urine contain more glucose when a woman has gestational diabetes. The yeast cells use the glucose as food, which causes the cells to multiply. With the body’s immune system compromised by the high level of glucose in the blood, this increase in yeast cells turns into a yeast infection.

High Blood Sugar

Since a woman may not have any noticeable symptoms of gestational diabetes and symptoms can mimic regular pregnancy symptoms, screening for this condition is part of prenatal care for at-risk women between weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy. Your physician will initially order a blood test called a glucose challenge test. If the glucose challenge test indicates a high blood sugar level, your physician may order a glucose tolerance test to confirm the diagnosis of gestational diabetes. Both tests involve drinking a sweet glucose solution and having your blood drawn after a prescribed amount of time.