Pregnancy & Gestational Diabetes
Diabetes that develops during pregnancy is called gestational diabetes. Gestation means “during pregnancy.” Diabetes is a condition which affects blood sugar levels in the body and does require medical oversight. Gestational diabetes is something that can develop when a woman is pregnant but would not otherwise have diabetic issues. It causes high blood sugar and can affect both the mother’s and the baby’s health if left untreated. However, under medical care it is manageable through diet, exercise and medication all of which help control the blood sugar levels. With gestational diabetes there are often no signs or symptoms initially, and it typically develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy. All OB doctors will screen for it between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy.
The causes are still being researched, but what has been determined is that the placenta produces high levels of hormones which prevent insulin in your system from working thus raising blood sugar levels. As the pregnancy continues the placenta will produce more and more of these insulin impairing hormones which can allow for blood sugar levels to rise high enough to adversely affect both mother and child.
Women at risk for gestational diabetes:
- Over the age of 25
- Family or personal health history with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes
- Overweight (BMI of 30 or higher)
- Non-white race – for unknown reasons women who are black, Hispanic, Asian or American Indian are at higher risk for gestational diabetes
Most women who have gestational diabetes deliver healthy babies as long as it is treated during pregnancy. After delivering the baby, the mother’s blood sugars will return to normal very quickly. But be aware that if you have diabetes during pregnancy, you have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Be sure to consult your doctor and stay under the regular care of a primary care physician after the baby’s birth.