Gestational diabetes is a pregnancy-related condition that affects how your cells use sugar (glucose). Gestational diabetes causes high blood sugar that can affect your pregnancy and your baby’s health. Fortunately, this is a common complication that can be managed by eating healthy foods, exercising and in some cases, taking medication. Here’s what you need to know about controlling your blood sugar during pregnancy.

Researchers do not know why some people develop diabetes and some do not. During pregnancy, the placenta produces high levels of various other hormones. Almost all of them impair the action of insulin in your cells, raising your blood sugar. Some elevation of blood sugar after meals is completely normal during pregnancy. The farther along your pregnancy is, the more insulin-blocking hormones you produce.

Usually gestational diabetes doesn’t cause noticeable signs or symptoms. However, you can start discussing gestational diabetes with your doctor early in your pregnancy. Your physician will evaluate your risk facts to determine whether you should be screened. If you are over 25, have a family history of diabetes, are non-white, or are significantly overweight, you have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes. If you do develop gestational diabetes, you may need more-frequent checkups. Extra visits to the doctor are most likely to happen during the last trimester of pregnancy, when your doctor will monitor your blood sugar level and your baby’s health.

Various complications can arise from gestational diabetes, including a greater chance that you will need a C-section. Because of the extra glucose, your baby may be at risk of greater birth weight, respiratory distress, low blood sugar, and type 2 diabetes later in life. It may also create a higher risk that you will develop type 2 diabetes later as well. By following your doctor’s advice and watching what you eat, you will strongly minimize the probability of complications or permanent problems.

When your physician recommends a diabetes dictated diet, it means you will focus more on eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which are high in nutrition and fiber and low in fat and calories. You will limit sweets and highly refined carbohydrates.

Exercise is beneficial because it lowers your blood sugar. It also increases your sensitivity to insulin, meaning your body will ask for less insulin in order to transport sugar.

When diet and exercise don’t control your blood sugar, you might need medication. Between 10 and 20 percent of women require some medication to manage gestational diabetes. This may require oral blood sugar medication and in some cases, insulin injections.

Your doctor may refer you to additional health professionals who specialize in diabetes, such as an endocrinologist, a registered dietitian or a diabetes educator. They can help you learn to manage your blood sugar level during your pregnancy.

Your blood sugar will usually return to normal after you give birth. To make sure your blood sugar level has returned to normal, your health care providers will check your blood sugar right after delivery and again in six weeks. If you have had gestational diabetes, it is recommended that you have your blood sugar level tested regularly to make sure you haven’t developed type 2 diabetes.