Gestational diabetes: causes, symptoms and treatment

  • Gestational diabetes is when someone develops diabetes during pregnancy.
  • Doctors check all pregnant women for symptoms of gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks.
  • Gestational diabetes usually goes away on its own after the baby is born.
  • Visit the Insider Health Reference for more tips.


first diagnosed during pregnancy, it is known as

Diabetes mellitus during pregnancy
… Gestational diabetes occurs in about 1 in 10 pregnancies in the United States, and usually resolves after childbirth, although there are risks if left untreated.

All women are screened for diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation, and women at high risk may be screened earlier. Here’s how to find out your risk of gestational diabetes and how to treat it if you’ve been diagnosed.

What Causes Gestational Diabetes?

While scientists are not entirely sure what causes gestational diabetes, it is believed that hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy can make it difficult for the body to use insulin effectively.

Insulin it is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. If insulin doesn’t work properly due to hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy, it can lead to gestational diabetes. This is similar to what causes type 2 diabetes when insulin is produced but not used properly.

Most cases of gestational diabetes occur later in pregnancy, so women are screened between 24 and 28 weeks. It is then that the placenta produces more hormones, including human placental lactogen (HPL) that can interfere with insulin use.

Any pregnant woman can develop gestational diabetes, but it must be risk factors increase the likelihood, for example:

  • Weight. The risk of gestational diabetes increases with weight gain. 2007 year study published in the journal Diabetes Care, showed that overweight women are more than twice as likely to develop gestational diabetes as women with a healthy BMI, and women with severe obesity are more than eight times more likely to develop gestational diabetes.
  • Age. A 2020 study published in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, showed that the risk of gestational diabetes increases with age from 25 to 40 years, with people aged 35 to 40 years at greatest risk.
  • Medical history. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal imbalance, can increase the risk of gestational diabetes by up to four times… In addition, if you had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy, you 66% chance the presence of this in future pregnancies.
  • Family history of diabetes. “Women with a family history of diabetes are more at risk of contracting it during pregnancy,” says Lisa DeFazio, certified nutritionist and nutritionist. Women aged 30 and over with a family history of diabetes three times is more likely to have gestational diabetes. Read about the link between diabetes and genetics for more information.

Risks of gestational diabetes

People with gestational diabetes can have healthy pregnancies and healthy children, especially if they are treating their condition with the guidance of their doctor. However, there are still risks.

“Gestational diabetes puts mom and baby at an increased risk of pregnancy complications,” says Sherri A. Ross, MD, obstetrician-gynecologist and author.

IN risks for babies those born of a person with gestational diabetes include:

  • Great birth weight. “The child runs the risk of becoming much larger than usual,” says Ross. This can increase the risk of birth complications such as shoulder dystocia, and infants may have difficulty regulating blood sugar and may need attention in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
  • Increased risk of premature birth. Most babies whose mothers have gestational diabetes give birth to full-term, between 39 and 40 weeks of age, but there is an increased risk of preterm birth. Premature birth may have health complications for the baby, such as an increased risk of temperature regulation problems or digestive problems.
  • Increased risk of stillbirth. Women with gestational diabetes before Five times more likely to be stillborn or stillborn after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Risks to a person carrying a baby also include a higher likelihood of certain birth complications, such as a caesarean section, as well as high blood pressure or preeclampsia.

Treating gestational diabetes

In general, most cases of gestational diabetes go away after the baby is born and hormone levels return to normal.

“When the umbilical cord is cut, the diabetes goes away,” says DeFazio. “The pregnancy hormones cause it, so when the baby is born, the mom is no longer pregnant and doesn’t produce pregnancy hormones.”

However, it is important to manage gestational diabetes during pregnancy to reduce the risk of health complications. Ross recommends the following lifestyle changes:

  • Consult with a dietitian. “Seeing a dietitian is important to give you advice on how to formulate a low-carb and high-protein diet to control blood sugar,” says Ross. Learn more about why it is important for people with diabetes to limit their carbohydrate intake.
  • Exercise regularly. Moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, can help control your blood sugar. Ross recommends working with your doctor to create a daily routine.
  • Check your blood sugar. Ross says your doctor will also teach you how to control your blood glucose levels in the morning and two hours after meals. Read our guide for more information on how to check your blood sugar.

Ross says about 15% of women with gestational diabetes may also need medications for treatment, such as insulin therapy or metformin.

Regular exercise and a healthy diet can reduce this riskbut those previously diagnosed with gestational diabetes should continue to have their blood sugar checked every 1-3 years.

“Identifying early risk factors for diabetes in adults, such as gestational diabetes, may be the first wake-up call to start changing your diet, exercise and other bad lifestyle habits,” says Ross.

Insider’s conclusion

Gestational diabetes occurs in about 1 in 10 pregnancies in the United States. But with early recognition and consistent treatment measures such as healthy eating and regular exercise, you can manage gestational diabetes and reduce your risk of health complications.

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