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What should I do if I have gestational diabetes?

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Know your blood sugar level and keep it under control

What is it?

The first step in this general treatment plan has two parts: 1) Knowing your blood sugar level—means you test to see how much glucose is in your blood; and 2) Keeping your blood sugar level under control—means you keep the amount of glucose within a healthy range at all times, by eating a healthy diet as outlined by your health care provider, getting regular physical activity, and taking insulin, if needed.

Why do I have to do it?

Your blood sugar level changes during the day based on what foods you eat, when you eat, and how much you eat. Your level of physical activity and when you do physical activities also affect your blood sugar levels.

By getting to know your body and how it uses glucose during the day, you can help your health care provider to adjust your treatment program. Measuring your glucose level every day, and often during the day helps pinpoint when you need to eat, how much you should eat, and what kinds of foods are best for you. Knowing if your glucose level is in the healthy range also tells you whether or not it is safe for you to do physical activity.

As you get closer to your due date, your insulin resistance could increase. If that happens, you might need to take insulin shots to help keep your glucose level under control. Knowing your glucose levels at specific times of the day will allow your health care provider to figure out the right amount of insulin for you.

Measuring your blood sugar will give you information about... For example...
The amount of food you can eat Can you have that extra 1/2 bagel at breakfast?
Foods that affect your glucose level Does your body process different foods differently?
Times when your glucose level is high or low You might have high blood sugar in the morning after breakfast. Other women's levels are highest after dinner?
Times that physical activity is more likely to keep your glucose level in the target range Does walking for 20 minutes after breakfast or dinner help to keep your glucose level within the healthy range?

How do I do it?

Your health care provider will show you how to test your glucose level and will give you detailed information about glucose testing. The steps below are only meant to give you a basic idea of what is involved in testing:

  1. Wash your hands with warm water and soap.
  2. Prick your finger with a small needle called a lancet (pronounced LAN-sett). Squeeze out a drop of blood. (Note: The illustration above shows someone getting blood from an index finger, but you can prick any finger to get a drop of blood.)
  3. Place the drop of blood on the target spot of a special testing device called a glucose meter, or onto the paper strip that fits into the meter. Because each glucose meter is different, your health care provider will show you how to use your specific meter and will explain how the meter works. 
  4. Wait a few minutes (Note: How long you have to wait depends on the type of meter you have). The meter will give you a number for your blood sugar level, like 128.

Use each lancet only once and be careful when you throw away used lancets. Ask your health care provider how to safely throw away testing supplies, like lancets.

Your health care provider will watch you do the test before you do it by yourself or try it at home. Take your glucose testing items with you when you go for health care appointments.

You can get supplies for testing your glucose level, like lancets and glucose meters, in most drug stores, pharmacies, and medical supply stores. Your health insurance plan might cover the cost of these supplies. You might also be able to rent a glucose meter from a medical supply store. Renting might be a better option for you, since you will probably need the device only while you're pregnant. Ask your pharmacist for more information.

When do I do it?

Follow your health care provider's advice about when to test your glucose level. You might have to test four times a day:

  • Fasting glucose level—first thing in the morning, before you eat
  • 1 or 2 hours after breakfast
  • 1 or 2 hours after lunch
  • 1 or 2 hours after dinner

You might also need to test your glucose level before you go to bed at night. This test is called your nighttime or nocturnal (the word nocturnal means nighttime) glucose level.

How do I know that I'm doing it right?

Even though your glucose level changes during the day, there is a healthy range for these levels. The goal is to keep your glucose level within this range. The following chart shows the healthy "target" range for each time you test.


Time of Blood Sugar Test Healthy Target Levels (in mg/dl) *
Fasting glucose level No higher than 95
One hour after eating No higher than 140
Two hours after eating No higher than 120

Talk to your health care provider about what to do if your glucose level is outside the healthy target listed here. You may have to adjust your treatment plan to get your levels back in range.

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Last Reviewed: 08/16/2006
Vision National Institutes of Health Home BOND National Institues of Health Home Home Storz Lab: Section on Environmental Gene Regulation Home Machner Lab: Unit on Microbial Pathogenesis Home Division of Intramural Population Health Research Home Bonifacino Lab: Section on Intracellular Protein Trafficking Home Lilly Lab: Section on Gamete Development Home Lippincott-Schwartz Lab: Section on Organelle Biology