What is Gestational Diabetes?

The Woman's Group-Tampa Obstetrics-Gestational Diabetes

November is Diabetes Awareness Month:  What is Gestational Diabetes? 

At The Woman’s Group, we see patients with many different health backgrounds. Although many patients have been perfectly healthy before their pregnancy, unexpected challenges can arise even with the best planning. Gestational diabetes is one such condition that can occur, but it can also be managed with proper care.

Pregnant women who have never had diabetes previously, but who develop high blood glucose (sugar) levels during pregnancy, are said to have “gestational diabetes.” According to a recent analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gestational diabetes occurs in 9% of the pregnant population.

The causes of gestational diabetes have yet to be discovered.  However, there are some clues which aid in diagnosis. The placenta supports the baby as it grows. Hormones from the placenta help the baby develop. But these hormones also block the action of the mother’s insulin in her body. This problem is called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance makes it hard for the mother’s body to use insulin. She may need up to three times as much insulin.Gestational diabetes starts when your body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes affects women late in pregnancy, after the baby’s body has been formed, but the baby is still growing. Because of this, gestational diabetes does not cause the kinds of birth defects sometimes seen in babies whose mothers had diabetes before pregnancy. 

CDC Video at Diabetes.Org:   http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/gestational/what-is-gestational-diabetes.html#sthash.9kuwJjzX.dpuf

However, untreated or poorly controlled gestational diabetes can still hurt your baby. When you have gestational diabetes, your pancreas works overtime to produce insulin, but the insulin does not always lower your blood glucose to normal levels. Although insulin does not cross the placenta, glucose and other nutrients do. So extra blood glucose goes through the placenta, giving the baby high blood glucose levels. This causes the baby’s pancreas to make extra insulin to get rid of the blood glucose. Since the baby is getting more energy than it needs to grow and develop, the extra energy is stored as fat. This can lead to “macrosomia,” or babies whose weight is high for their gestational age.  Babies with macrosomia face health problems of their own, including shoulder dystocia, which is a dangerous condition in which the baby’s head is delivered but the shoulder becomes lodged in the mother’s birth canal.  This can lead to nerve damage of the baby’s arm, or to lack of oxygen to the baby during the key portion of delivery. Also, because of the extra insulin made by the baby’s pancreas, newborns may have very low blood glucose levels at birth and are also at higher risk for breathing problems. Babies with excess insulin become children who are at risk for obesity and adults who are at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Read this factsheet on Gestational Diabetes at http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Gestational-Diabetes

Read the rest of this article at: http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/gestational/what-is-gestational-diabetes.html

If you have any concerns about the risks of gestational diabetes and your pregnancy, speak to our staff at The Woman’s Group.