PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — When a pregnant woman is told she has gestational diabetes, it may have been a problem for some time already.

“Many of these women already have problems with their blood sugar but may not know it,” said Dr. Paul Weinbaum, OBGYN at West Penn Hospital.

Researchers looked at the impact of the condition of high blood sugar first detected during pregnancy. It can lead to high birth weight babies, which can lead to birth injuries and problems with the baby’s blood sugar.

Screening is typically done at 24 to 28 weeks. But, based on new research in the women with high blood sugar, even on the 20 week ultrasound, the developing baby is already likely affected.

“Their babies are not only bigger at the end of pregnancy, but they were bigger even halfway through pregnancy as well, even at the 20 week scan,” Weinbaum said.

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The reason the testing is done at 24 to 28 weeks is, statistically, that’s the best time to catch most cases. But this information suggests that earlier screening may be beneficial.

“A lot of us have felt for a while that earlier screening is probably worth it,” Weinbaum explained.

Finding it earlier could lead to earlier intervention.

“Diet will work for most people, if you can get them to follow. And it’s not that easy. It does involve a big change for a lot of patients,” Weinbaum said.

To keep blood sugars under control during pregnancy, the recommendation is to keep carbohydrates at 50 percent or less. But in the typical American diet, carbs are usually 70 to 80 percent.

“Women have a very strong motivation to have good pregnancy outcomes, so I think there are a number of factors which act on our behalf, if you would, to help people make these changes during pregnancy,” Weinbaum said.