Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes, or diabetes that occurs in pregnancy and resolves at birth, occurs in approximately three to eight pregnancies of every 100 in America.

Often gestational diabetes can be controlled through eating a proper diet and exercising regularly, but sometimes a woman with gestational diabetes must also take insulin shots or diabetes pills. Usually gestational diabetes goes away after pregnancy, but sometimes diabetes doesn’t go away. If it does not go away, this diabetes is called type 2 diabetes and often can be controlled through eating a proper diet and exercising regularly.  Many women who have had gestational diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes later. But, if a woman eats a healthy diet, exercises regularly, and watches her weight, she might delay or prevent type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes Research

Risk factors for developing gestational diabetes:

  • A family history of diabetes
  • Being overweight
  • Having prediabetes
  • Having given birth previously to a child weighing 9 pounds or more

In addition, the same populations at risk for type 2 diabetes - Latino Americans, African American, Pacific Islander, and Asian Americans - are also at greater risk for gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes mellitus, or GDM, is diabetes that first appears in pregnancy and resolves at birth. An estimated 200,000 American women, approximately 5% of total pregnancies, are diagnosed with GDM annually.Women who develop gestational diabetes have problems metabolizing glucose. Their pancreas produces plenty of insulin (the hormone responsible for “unlocking” cells so that glucose can enter them and provide energy), but a condition known as insulin resistance prevents them from using it effectively. When insulin doesn’t work properly, blood glucose (or blood sugar) builds up in the bloodstream, and gestational diabetes is the result.

Treatment

Diabetes ResearchGestational diabetes requires treatment with dietary changes and exercise and/or insulin injections to keep maternal blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible and to prevent complications in both mother and baby. Women with GDM are also encouraged to self-test their blood glucose levels often.A fetus of a woman with GDM may become large for date as it stores the excess glucose it is receiving from mom as fat, a condition known as macrosomia. A large infant may have a more difficult time descending down the birth canal. Other potential risks for baby includehypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and jaundice. A pediatrician or a neonatolgist, a physician that specializes in high risk infant care, is often present at the births of GDM babies to handle any potential complications.

Sources: National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.