Blood Sugar Level During Pregnancy: What’s Considered Normal?

Changes in hormone levels during pregnancy cause your body to change, and you might find yourself falling prey to illnesses more easily. The blood running through your body carry these hormones – so changes arise in them easily as well. Let’s look at blood sugar levels during pregnancy: What is gestational diabetes, what are the risks and what should you do if you have a high blood sugar level?

Blood sugar level during pregnancy: Does “high” mean gestational diabetes?  

testing blood glucose level calendar

Blood sugar level refers to the glucose in the blood. According to the American Diabetes Association, one is considered diabetic when a fasting plasma glucose level of more than 126 mg/dL (7.0 mmol/l) or a casual plasma glucose level of more than 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/l).1

If you’re at risk of getting gestational diabetes, your OB-GYN might recommend that you take a glucose screening test to check your glucose level in Week 24 of pregnancy. A blood sugar level of about 130 to 140mg/dL is considered high, and a level of more than 200 mg/dL means there is a high possibility that you have gestational diabetes.2

The effects of hormones on your blood during pregnancy cause sugar levels to go higher than pre-pregnancy sugar levels. Although gestational diabetes can be an indication of a slight metabolic disorder, once the pregnancy ends, blood levels in such cases usually return to normal without the need for medical intervention.

Why do pregnant women have high blood glucose levels during pregnancy?

pregnant woman hospital doctor

What makes blood sugar levels in your body drop? Insulin is the key hormone that does so. When levels of insulin decrease during pregnancy, blood sugar levels does not drop because of not enough insulin is secreted to metabolize the glucose in the blood.

During pregnancy, your insulin levels decrease because of the secretion of other hormones and they suppress the action of insulin, causing blood sugar levels to increase. Also, in order to be able to provide the fetus with the necessary nutrients needed, your body keeps glucose levels in the blood high, and this can give rise to gestational diabetes.

Effects of high blood sugar level during pregnancy on the fetus

baby shoes pregnant woman

If the blood sugar levels remain at a constant high, a high amount of glucose will be sent to the fetus as well. However, a constantly high level of blood sugar can cause the baby to become a really big baby. A fetus that weighs more than 8 lb 13 oz (4 kg) at birth is termed a macrosomia – and a baby this big can result in a very difficult labor. The baby might have respiratory problems at birth, or even might require a cesarean section at birth because of their size.

Also, should the expectant mother continually have gestational diabetes, the baby starts to produce more insulin in their body in response to the high levels of glucose. When the baby is born, the high levels of insulin in their bodies can cause their glucose levels to plummet (neonatal hypoglycemia) and cause them to become listless or jittery, or even go into seizures.

Reduce blood glucose level during pregnancy

pregnant woman cooking

The basic “treatment” for gestational diabetes is limiting the calories you take in each day. As for what food to eat, foods that contain carbohydrates, like rice, noodles, bread; or foods containing sugar, like snacks, are best avoided. Trade this is for vegetables or food containing dietary fiber. Kickstart your meals with food high in dietary fiber, and this will help your body control the glucose levels in your body. Dieting can help you control your glucose levels, but controlling your diet in addition to exercise is the most effective method.

Making changes to diet

pregnant woman couple walking

Gestational diabetes usually comes to an end when the pregnancy is over and the baby is delivered. However, in some cases, gestational diabetes go on and become diabetes. Oral medication or insulin shots can help in the regulation of blood glucose levels, but this doesn’t tackle the root of the problem.

Diet and exercise or other lifestyle habits are the key issues that have to be addressed – so if you’ve been told that you’ve gestational diabetes, it’s best that you face the problem head on and start making changes to your diet immediately!

  1. Gestational Diabetes Mellitus 
  2. Patient information: Gestational diabetes mellitus (Beyond the Basics)