What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs only during pregnancy. Like other forms of diabetes, gestational diabetes affects the way your body uses sugar (glucose) — your body's main source of fuel. The result may be dangerously high blood sugar levels.
Any pregnancy complication is concerning, but you can manage gestational diabetes by:
Taking good care of yourself can help ensure a healthy pregnancy for you and a healthy start for your baby. After the birth of the baby, blood glucose levels return to normal in most women.
- eating healthy foods,
- exercising regularly and,
- if necessary, taking medication.
Gestational diabetes increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Women who have been diagnosed in pregnancy with gestational diabetes are 50% more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes later in life.
Causes of Gestational Diabetes:
During digestion, your body breaks down carbohydrates from foods such as bread, pasta, vegetables, fruits and dairy products into various sugar molecules. One of these sugar molecules is glucose, a main source of energy. Glucose is absorbed directly into your bloodstream after you eat, but it can't enter your cells without the help of insulin.
Your pancreas, a gland located just behind your stomach, produces insulin continuously. When your blood sugar increases after eating, insulin production also increases. The extra insulin "unlocks" your cells to more sugar, which provides your body with energy and helps maintain a normal level of sugar in your blood.
During pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones to sustain your pregnancy. These hormones make your cells more resistant to insulin. As your placenta grows larger in the second and third trimesters, it secretes more of these hormones — making it even harder for insulin to do its job.
Normally, your pancreas responds by producing enough extra insulin to overcome this resistance. But sometimes your pancreas can't keep up. When this happens, too little glucose gets into your cells and too much stays in your blood. This is gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually develops during the second trimester, sometimes as early as the 20th week, but often not until later in the pregnancy.
Any woman can develop gestational diabetes, but some women are at greater risk than are others. Risk factors for gestational diabetes include:
Source: Mayo Clinic
- Age Women older than age 25 are more likely to develop gestational diabetes.
- Family or personal history Your risk of developing gestational diabetes increases if you have prediabetes, a precursor to type 2 diabetes, or a close family member, such as a parent or sibling, has type 2 diabetes. You're also more likely to develop gestational diabetes if you had it during a previous pregnancy, if you delivered a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds, or if you had an unexplained stillbirth.
- Weight You're more likely to develop gestational diabetes if you're overweight before pregnancy.
- Race For reasons that aren't clear, women who are African-American, Hispanic, American Indian or Asian are more likely to develop gestational diabetes than are other women.
Additional Gestational Diabetes Informational Links:
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