What is Gestational Diabetes?

Posted On: November 21, 2017 By Daniel Saltzman, MD

Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy (gestation). Like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes affects how your cells use sugar (glucose). Gestational diabetes causes high blood sugar that can affect your pregnancy and your baby’s health. Expectant women can help control gestational diabetes by eating healthy foods, exercising and, if necessary, taking medication such as insulin if diet and exercise do not control your blood sugars.

For most women, gestational diabetes doesn’t cause noticeable signs or symptoms. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose move from your bloodstream into your body’s cells, where it’s used as energy. During pregnancy, the placenta, which connects your baby to your blood supply, produces high levels of various other hormones. Almost all of them impair the action of insulin in your cells, raising your blood sugar

As your baby grows, the placenta produces more and more insulin-counteracting hormones. In gestational diabetes, the placental hormones provoke a rise in blood sugar to a level that can affect the growth and welfare of your baby. Gestational diabetes usually develops during the last half of pregnancy (greater than 24 weeks) You will be screened with a blood test for diabetes usually between 24 to 28 weeks

Who is at Risk?

Any woman can develop gestational diabetes, but some women are at greater risk. Risk factors for gestational diabetes include:

  • Age greater than 25
  • Family or personal health history of gestational diabetes
  • Excess weight. You’re more likely to develop gestational diabetes if you’re significantly overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.

Most women who have gestational diabetes deliver healthy babies. However, gestational diabetes that’s not carefully managed can lead to uncontrolled blood sugar levels and cause problems for you and your baby, including an increased likelihood of needing a C-section to deliver

  • If you have gestational diabetes, your baby may be at increased risk of Excessive birth weight. Extra glucose in your bloodstream crosses the placenta, which triggers your baby’s pancreas to make extra insulin. This can cause your baby to grow too large (macrosomia). Very large babies — those that weigh 9 pounds or more — are more likely to become wedged in the birth canal, sustain birth injuries or require a C-section birth.
  • Early (preterm) birth and Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Gestational diabetes may also increase the mother’s risk of High blood pressure and preeclampsia. Gestational diabetes raises your risk of high blood pressure, as well as preeclampsia — a serious complication of pregnancy that causes high blood pressure and other symptoms that can threaten the lives of both mother and baby.

Future Diabetes

If you have gestational diabetes, you’re more likely to get it again during a future pregnancy. You’re also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes as you get older. However, making healthy lifestyle choices such as eating healthy foods and exercising can help reduce the risk of future type 2 diabetes.

Overall outcome for women with well-controlled gestational diabetes is excellent.

Carnegie Imaging for Women blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!

Comments are closed.

Carnegie South 212 427-1576


Carnegie Hill 212 722-7426