Gestational Diabetes

What is Gestational Diabetes?  

Gestation means during pregnancy.  Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs in 2-12% of pregnancies. Like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes is caused by issues relating to the hormone insulin, and how the body regulates and accepts it.  

Gestational diabetes is diagnosed when blood sugar levels become too high during pregnancy. This diagnosis usually happens around the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy. During this time of change for the mother and the baby, the mother may develop a form of glucose intolerance. Glucose intolerance is when the body has a hard time using glucose.  

What Causes Gestational Diabetes?  

During pregnancy, the female body experiences hormone changes and weight gain that can contribute to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is when there is a problem with the key that unlocks the cells that need glucose for energy. Women who do not produce enough insulin to overcome these changes develop gestational diabetes.  

Factors Contributing to Gestational Diabetes 

Those at high risk for developing gestational diabetes include women who are overweight, have a history of gestational diabetes during past pregnancies, or have a family history of diabetes.  

What Does Gestational Diabetes mean for my Baby?  

If blood sugar levels are too high during pregnancy, problems for the baby may develop. This includes early birth, high birth weight, breathing problems, and hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is when blood sugar levels are too low. In the long term, your baby is more likely to be overweight and develop type 2 diabetes as your child grows older.  

Managing Gestational Diabetes 

The best way to manage gestational diabetes is through simple lifestyle changes. For example, try to eat fruits and vegetables at every meal, switch refined grains like white bread for whole grain, and exercise regularly. To manage blood sugar levels, timing, portion sizes, and taking insulin are all important. Your primary care doctor will guide you through this process.  

 

References:  

Laura Hieronymus, RN, MSEd, CDE and Patti Geil, MS, RD, LD, CDE. Expecting the Best: Diabetes, Pregnancy, and Blood Glucose Control https://www.nfb.org/sites/www.nfb.org/files/images/nfb/publications/vod/vodfal0104.htm 

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Definitions and Facts of Gestational Diabetes.  https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/gestational/definition-facts