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Understanding Gestational Diabetes

Every year, between 2 and 10% of pregnancies are affected by gestational diabetes, one of the most common types of “high risk pregnancies.” Untreated, gestational diabetes can lead to premature birth and even still birth.

Katy McDermott, a Registered Nutrition and Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator at MarinHealth Braden Diabetes Center, has been educating and advising women with gestational diabetes for 13 years. In this podcast, she discusses how gestational diabetes is diagnosed and treated and how to minimize the risk to both mother and baby.
Understanding Gestational Diabetes
Katy McDermott, RDN, CDE
Katy McDermott is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator with 13 years of experience in nutrition education. She is dedicated to provide quality care and support to people with type 1, type 2, Gestational Diabetes, and Pediatrics. 

Learn more about Katy McDermott, RDN, CDE

Bill Klaproth (Host): So, you've definitely have heard of diabetes, but what is gestational diabetes? How is it diagnosed and how is it treated? Well, let's find out with Katy McDermott, a Registered Nutrition and Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator at MarinHealth.

This is the Healing Podcast brought to you by MarinHealth. I'm Bill Klaproth. Katy, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it. So, first off, can you give us a bit of your background and your credentials?

Katy McDermott, RDN, CDE (Guest): I'm a Registered Dietician Nutritionist, which I have been for 20 years. And I'm also a Certified Diabetes Educator, which I have been for 13 years.

Host: So, when it comes to the world of diabetes, you have spent a lot of time in this area. You're the perfect person for us to ask you all of these questions then. So, let's jump into this. So, we've all heard of diabetes, but how about gestational diabetes? What is that?

Katy: Yes. Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy.

Host: Okay. So, gestational diabetes happens in pregnancy. So, do people who didn't have prediabetes or diabetes before getting pregnant, do they have a risk of developing gestational diabetes?

Katy: Yes, especially as women are having babies later in life. Once you're over the age of 25, that is a risk factor. Amongst other risk factors of coming into pregnancy overweight, family history of diabetes, race. Also if you've had any kind of large births with previous pregnancies.

Host: Okay. So that's good to know those risk factors. So, then what are the symptoms? Are there any, what should a woman be looking out for?

Katy: Unfortunately, it's confusing. There are no symptoms.

Host: No symptoms. Okay. So, then how do you diagnose it?

Katy: You're recommended to take an oral glucose tolerance test to get the diagnosis of gestational diabetes. And it's recommended to take this oral glucose tolerance test, which you'll do in a lab, between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy.

Host: Hmm. Okay. Got it. So, then someone might be wondering, are there risks to the mom and the baby? Do gestational diabetes pose a risk?

Katy: Yes. Specifically for the baby. Your baby can be born too early. A big concern of the baby can grow too quickly because if your blood sugars are elevated, your baby is exposed to more sugar. Also your baby, once it's born can have hypoglycemia and breathing problems.

Host: Do women continue to have diabetes after the baby is born? I mean, does it go away after birth? And then are they at higher risk from that point forward to continue to have diabetes or maybe even developing it later in life?

Katy: So, once the woman delivers her baby, her blood sugars are tested pretty routinely at her hospital stay. And the majority of the time it normalizes. So, blood sugars go back to normal, like they were prior to pregnancy, and usually the doctors and nurses are monitoring that. But moving forward, they are higher risk, they're or about 50% higher risk of getting prediabetes and type 2 diabetes in the future.

Host: Okay, so something to watch out for it. And then what can be done to treat it?

Katy: So, when I see patients for gestational diabetes, we teach them how to eat healthy. So, we talk a lot about balanced meals, but specifically looking at carbohydrates. So, if you have too many carbohydrates in your diet, it can elevate your blood sugars. So, we talk about the right carbohydrates to eat and a balanced meal, along with exercise.

Host: So, the good news is you can treat and mitigate the effects of gestational diabetes. Katy, is there anything else we should know about gestational diabetes?

Katy: They would also be testing their blood sugars. So, they would get a glucose monitor and be testing their blood sugars four times a day, which sounds like a lot. But what we're trying to do is see how their body reacts when they're not eating food. And then also testing after their meals to get a sense of how their body's reacting to the foods that they eat. And then from there that's always our goal is that for people to control with diet and exercise and testing their blood sugars. But you know, at some point if their blood sugars are elevated, we do talk to them about a possibility of starting medication.

Host: All right. Well, this has been fascinating, thank you for talking to us about gestational diabetes. We appreciate it. Thanks Katy.

Katy: Sure. Thank you.

Host: And once again, that's Katy McDermott. And to learn more about diabetes care in the MarinHealth Braden Diabetes Center, please visit And if you found this podcast helpful, please share it on your social channels and check out the full podcast library for topics of interest to you. This is the Healing Podcast brought to you by MarinHealth. I'm Bill Klaproth. Thanks for listening.