Gestational diabetes is first diagnosed during pregnancy. Like type 1 and type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes causes blood sugar levels to become too high.
When you eat, your digestive system breaks down most of the food into a sugar called glucose. Glucose enters your bloodstream so your cells can use it as fuel. With the help of insulin (a hormone made by your pancreas), muscle, fat, and other cells absorb glucose from your blood.
But if your body doesn't produce enough insulin, or if the cells have a problem responding to it, too much glucose remains in your blood instead of moving into cells and getting converted to energy.
When you're pregnant, your body naturally becomes more resistant to insulin so that more glucose is available to nourish your baby. For most moms-to-be, this isn't a problem: When your body needs additional insulin to process excess glucose in blood, the pancreas secretes more.
But if the pancreas can't keep up with the increased demand for insulin during pregnancy, blood sugar levels rise too high because the cells aren't using the glucose. This results in gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes needs to be recognized and treated quickly because it can cause health problems for mother and baby.
Unlike other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes isn't permanent. Once a baby is born, blood sugar will most likely return to normal quickly. However, having gestational diabetes does make developing diabetes in the future more likely.
Who is at risk of developing gestational diabetes?
Anyone can develop gestational diabetes, and not all women who develop the condition have known risk factors. Up to 10 percent of all pregnant women get gestational diabetes. You're more likely to develop gestational diabetes if you:
- are age 25 or older
- have a close relative who has diabetes
- are overweight, especially if your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher
- have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- have a medical condition that makes diabetes more likely, such as glucose intolerance
- take certain medications like glucocorticoids (for asthma or an autoimmune disease), beta-blockers (for high blood pressure or a rapid heart rate), or antipsychotic drugs (for mental health problems)
- have had gestational diabetes before
- have had a big baby before (macrosomia)
- are African American, Native American, Asian American, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander
Unfortunately, there's no way to guarantee that you won't get gestational diabetes. But there are ways to lower your risk. Adopting a healthy lifestyle – eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise – can make it less likely that you'll develop the condition.
PS: The next Post will include details about Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes and the Treatments for Gestational Diabetes. Please keep a look out for these.
In the mean time if you need help with reducing your blood sugars without medication please click here for details.