​Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy (gestation). It can be experienced by women who before pregnancy did not have diabetes, and the blood sugar levels return to normal levels soon after the baby's delivery. During pregnancy, the placenta produces certain hormones which interfere with the ability of insulin to manage sugar levels. Therefore the pancreas produces about three times more insulin during pregnancy. However, if the pancreas fails to produce optimum amount of insulin to overcome the effects of the hormones being produced by placenta, the blood glucose levels increase and cause gestational diabetes.

Controlling blood sugar can help prevent a difficult birth and keep you and your baby healthy. The necessary measures that can be taken include a healthy diet, regular exercise and taking the prescribed medications or supplements.

If you have had gestational diabetes, you may be at risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes, later on in life.​​

Gestational diabetes does not show any symptoms hence you will need to be tested for it during your pregnancy as part of your prenatal care by your gynaecologist. 
If possible, consult a doctor early, when you first think about trying to get pregnant or when you first find out that you are pregnant. Our team of medical specialists working with the Women's Health Care Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital is equipped to offer patients an accurate diagnosis and state-of-the-art medical treatment.
Your doctor can evaluate your risk of gestational diabetes as part of your overall childbearing wellness plan.

You may be at risk for having gestational diabetes if you were overweight before getting pregnant or if you have a mother, father, brother, sister or child with diabetes.

If you are younger than 25 years and have no risk factors, it is unlikely that you will develop gestational diabetes. However, it is always best to consult your doctor to be sure.​
Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. ​​Here are some tips to help get you started.​

Your doctor may test for diabetes at your first prenatal visit.  If you are at average risk for gestational diabetes, your doctor may order a screening test during your second trimester, between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy.

To diagnose gestational diabetes, your doctor may ask for some blood tests. These may include:

  • Initial glucose challenge test: You will drink a syrupy glucose solution. One hour later, you will have a blood test to measure your blood sugar level. If your blood sugar level is higher than normal, it only means that you have a higher risk of gestational diabetes. You will need a glucose tolerance test to determine if you have gestational diabetes.

  • Follow up glucose tolerance testing: You will have to fast overnight and then have your blood sugar level measured. You will drink a sweet solution and your blood sugar level will be checked every hour for three hours. If at least two of the blood sugar readings are higher than normal, you will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you may need more frequent doctor check-ups. These are most likely to occur during the last three months of pregnancy, when your doctor will monitor your blood sugar level and your baby's health.​

Your doctor may also ask you to monitor your own blood sugar as part of your treatment plan on a daily basis. It is essential to monitor and control your blood sugar to keep your baby healthy and avoid complications during pregnancy and delivery. Your doctor may suggest a treatment plan that includes the following:

  • Monitoring your blood sugar: While you are pregnant, your doctor may ask you to check your blood sugar four to five times a day, first thing in the morning and after meals, to make sure your level stays within a healthy range.
  • Healthy diet: Eating the right kinds of food in healthy portions is one of the best ways to control your blood sugar and prevent too much weight gain, which can put you at higher risk of complications. You can consult a registered dietician who can help you create a meal plan based on your current weight, pregnancy weight gain goals, blood sugar level, exercise habits and food preferences.

  • Exercise: Regular physical activity can play a key role in your wellness plan before, during and after pregnancy. Exercise lowers your blood sugar by stimulating your body to move glucose into your cells, where it is used for energy. Exercise also increases your cells' sensitivity to insulin, which means your body will need to produce less insulin to transport sugar. Regular exercise can help relieve some common discomforts of pregnancy, including back pain​, muscle cramps, swelling, constipation​ and trouble sleeping. Exercise can also help get you in shape for the hard work of labour and delivery. Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine. If you haven't been active for a while, start slowly and build up gradually. Walking and swimming are good choices during pregnancy.

  • Medication: If diet and exercise are not enough, you may need insulin injections to lower your blood sugar. Between 10 and 20 percent of women with gestational diabetes need insulin to reach their blood sugar goals. Some doctors prescribe an oral blood sugar control medication, while others believe more research is needed to confirm that oral drugs are as safe and as effective as injectable insulin to control gestational diabetes.

  • Close monitoring of your baby: An important part of your treatment plan is close observation of your baby. Your doctor may monitor your baby's growth and development with repeated ultrasounds or other tests.

To make sure your blood sugar level has returned to normal after your baby is born, your doctor may check your blood sugar right after delivery and again about six weeks later. Once you have had gestational diabetes, it is a good idea to have your blood sugar level tested regularly.​​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.
Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.​