This type of diabetes happens during pregnancy. Hormones are released that increase the production of glucose, which in turn makes the pancreas produce more insulin. This usually happens in the fourth, fifth, or sixth month of pregnancy.
When the baby is delivered, the mother’s glucose levels usually return to normal. But this condition does put the mother at risk for type 2 diabetes. Women who have had gestational diabetes will need to be tested regularly since they are at a much higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
What causes gestational diabetes?
During pregnancy, an expectant mother’s placenta makes many hormones. Some block insulin from moving glucose into the blood cells. This is known as insulin resistance, and all pregnant women, with or without gestational diabetes, have some insulin resistance.
To overcome this “resistance,” the body produces more insulin. But with gestational diabetes, the body cannot make enough insulin to keep up. Without enough insulin, the glucose level in the blood rises to higher than normal—a condition known as high blood glucose or hyperglycemia. This condition can cause an unborn child to gain too much weight during pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes is a serious condition, but you can learn how to manage it and prevent problems for you and your baby. And, because the placenta leaves your body when the baby is delivered, gestational diabetes usually goes away.
You may be at risk for gestational diabetes if you:
- Are overweight.
- Have a parent, brother or sister with diabetes.
- Are of African-American, Asian-American, Latino, Native-American, or Pacific Islander heritage.
- Are 25 years old or older.
- Had gestational diabetes before, or had a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds at birth.
- Have higher than normal blood glucose levels, but not high enough to be diagnosed as prediabetes or diabetes.