Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women who were not diabetic before pregnancy. Developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy can have future consequences for both the mother and the child.
Hormonal changes and weight gain during pregnancy, combined with several risk factors like being overweight before becoming pregnant, prediabetes and genetics, can result in the pregnant mother becoming insulin resistant. Insulin resistance means that the body is not properly metabolizing glucose in the blood through normal insulin production, and must therefore produce more insulin in order to keep blood-glucose levels balanced. If this condition persists or increases in severity, the pregnant mother is unable to secrete enough insulin from her pancreas to control her blood-glucose, and gestational diabetes results.
Gestational diabetes in many cases occurs without symptoms, or with very mild symptoms like frequent urination and increased thirst. It is extremely important to be tested as complications of gestational diabetes are numerous. Typically a pregnant woman at risk of gestational diabetes will be tested between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy, first with the “glucose challenge test,” and then with an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) if needed (if the glucose challenge test shows elevated blood glucose levels, the OGTT is usually administered). Upwards of 10% of all pregnancies result in gestational diabetes.
Children born from mothers with gestational diabetes have a greater risk of being obese and developing type 2 diabetes later in life. The mothers as well are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes after pregnancy, especially if they are unable to lose weight gained during the pregnancy.
Losing weight and eating a healthful diet before becoming pregnant is believed to help prevent the incidence of gestational diabetes. Staying active and eating fresh whole foods while pregnant also reduces the risk of developing gestational diabetes (and also gives more unprocessed nutrients to the fetus). Because type 2 diabetes is highly preventable, and gestational diabetes increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes for both mother and child, it is very important to test for gestational diabetes. If gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy, it is critical that both mother and child live healthful, active and mindful lives; the best recipe for all people in preventing type 2 diabetes.
Resources and Further Reading
For more information on the basics of Gestational diabetes, see these two government resources:
For more information on the studies on Gestational Diabetes and pregnancy outcomes internationally:
Information about Gestational diabetes tests:
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