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High Blood Sugar During Pregnancy: Hyperglycemia

Hyperglycemia in Pregnancy

Hyperglycemia or high blood sugar can be alarming during pregnancy. It results from pre-existing diabetes or gestational diabetes. High blood sugar during pregnancy can harm both the baby and the mother. 

An elevated blood sugar level during pregnancy is a symptom of gestational diabetes. In the United States, it affects up to 10% of pregnant women annually. Even those who have never had diabetes are affected by it when they become pregnant.

Gestational diabetes can be divided into two categories.

  • Through diet and exercise, women with class A1 can manage their condition.
  • Class A2 patients must take insulin or other drugs.

Following delivery, gestational diabetes will disappear. However, it raises your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life and may have an impact on your baby’s health. You can take action to maintain your health and that of your infant.

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Causes of High Blood Sugar During Pregnancy:

When you eat, your pancreas releases insulin, a hormone that aids in the transfer of blood sugar glucose to your cells, which use it as fuel.

The hormones your placenta produces during pregnancy cause your blood glucose levels to rise. In most cases, your pancreas can produce enough insulin to deal with it.

However, if your body is unable to produce enough insulin or stops utilizing it properly, your blood sugar levels increase and you get gestational diabetes.

Symptoms of Hyperglycemia in Pregnancy:

The symptoms of gestational diabetes in women are typically nonexistent or mistaken for those of pregnancy. Most people learn they have it when they have a standard examination.

You might see that:

  • You have more thirst than normal.
  • You eat more than normal since you’re more hungry.
  • More than usual, you urinate
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Are you at risk of Gestational Diabetes?

Any pregnant woman can develop gestational diabetes, however, several factors put you at higher risk [ref]:

  • Your body mass index (BMI) is greater than 30; determine your BMI with the BMI healthy weight calculator.
  • you previously gave birth to a child who weighed 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) or more and you previously had gestational diabetes.
  • If you are of South Asian, Black, African-Caribbean, or Middle Eastern descent and one of your parents or siblings has diabetes (even if you were born in the UK)

Screening for Gestational Diabetes:

During your first antenatal appointment (also known as a booking appointment) between weeks 8 and 12 of your pregnancy, your midwife or doctor will ask you some questions to determine whether you are at an increased risk of gestational diabetes.

You should be offered a screening test if you have one or more risk factors for gestational diabetes.

The screening test is known as an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), and it lasts approximately 2 hours.

It entails getting a blood test in the morning after going 8 to 10 hours without eating or drinking anything (though you can typically sip water, but check with the hospital if you’re unsure). Then a glucose beverage is supplied to you.

A second blood sample is taken to assess your body’s response to the glucose after you have rested for two hours.

When you are between 24 and 28 weeks pregnant, the OGTT is performed. If you’ve previously experienced gestational diabetes, you’ll be offered an OGTT early in your pregnancy, soon after your booking appointment, and if the first test is normal, a second OGTT at 24 to 28 weeks [ref].

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How to Prevent High Blood Sugar During Pregnancy?

The more healthy behaviors you can develop before becoming pregnant, the better. When it comes to avoiding gestational diabetes, there are no guarantees.

These healthy choices could lower your risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes or experiencing gestational diabetes again in the future if you’ve already had it.

  • Eat a nutrition-rich diet. Increase fiber intake and reduce the consumption of empty calories.
  • Stay active. On most days of the week, aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity.
  • Pregnancy should begin at a healthy weight.
  • Avoid gaining more weight than is advised.

Complications of High Blood Sugar During Pregnancy:

Uncontrolled gestational diabetes can cause high blood sugar levels. You and your unborn child may experience issues as a result of high blood sugar, such as an increased chance that you will require delivery-related surgery (C-section).

Your chance of developing future diabetes or preeclampsia (high blood pressure) rises if you have gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes increases the likelihood of stillbirth and preterm birth [ref].

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Table summarizing the maternal and fetal complications of hyperglycemia in pregnancy:

Maternal Complications

Fetal Complications

Pre-eclampsiaMacrosomia (large baby)
Diabetic ketoacidosisBirth defects
Polyhydramnios (excess amniotic fluid)Respiratory distress syndrome
Hyperglycemia and HyperglycemiaHypoglycemia
Preterm labor and Cesarean deliveryStillbirth
Infections (e.g. urinary tract infections)Neonatal jaundice
Worsening of diabetic retinopathy and nephropathyHypocalcemia

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Written by Dr. Ahmed

I am Dr. Ahmed (MBBS; FCPS Medicine), an Internist and a practicing physician. I am in the medical field for over fifteen years working in one of the busiest hospitals and writing medical posts for over 5 years.

I love my family, my profession, my blog, nature, hiking, and simple life. Read more about me, my family, and my qualifications

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