By Eirish Sison
Like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes affects how well your body uses sugar (glucose) - your cell's main source of fuel. Gestational diabetes causes high blood sugar levels that can affect your health and that of your growing baby. But healthy habits that include eating right, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight go a long way toward preventing gestational diabetes and treating it if you develop it.
Learn more about the causes and complications of gestational diabetes, plus steps you can take to prevent it.
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a temporary form of diabetes that is diagnosed during pregnancy (gestation), usually between weeks 24 and 28, and affects about 4 percent of all pregnancies, according to the American Diabetes Association. Gestational diabetes means that your blood sugar (also called blood glucose) is too high. In most cases, your blood sugar will return to normal soon after delivery. However, too much glucose in your blood during pregnancy can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life and can also cause future health problems for your baby.
The placenta, the organ that transfers hormones and nutrients from you to your baby via the umbilical cord, is responsible for your baby's growth and development. Hormones in the placenta block the action of your insulin, a regulatory hormone that controls the amount of glucose in blood. This dilemma, called insulin resistance, forces the pancreas to produce up to three times as much insulin for the body to function properly. Normally, your body is able to meet this challenge and your blood sugar levels normalize. Gestational diabetes occurs when your body doesn't produce enough insulin during pregnancy to combat insulin resistance, resulting in high blood sugar levels, or hyperglycemia.
For most pregnant women, gestational diabetes does not cause any noticeable physical symptoms. When gestational diabetes symptoms do occur, they are usually mild and not life threatening. These include:
Because gestational diabetes develops later in pregnancy, after your baby's organs have formed (around week 13), it does not pose the risk of serious birth defects that can occur earlier in pregnancy. Most women are able to control their blood sugar without causing any harm to themselves or their baby. However, poorly controlled blood sugar can cause complications for both you and your baby.