What is gestational diabetes?

By Dr. Kelley Struble

Gestational diabetes is high blood glucose (sugar) in a pregnant woman who has never had diabetes before, and it only occurs when a woman is pregnant.

The cause of this condition is not completely understood. It is thought that the hormones that are normally present during pregnancy block the effects of insulin in the mother’s body. This leads to a buildup of high blood glucose levels. This condition goes away after the baby is delivered and the pregnancy hormones return to normal levels.

Gestational diabetes that is not treated during the pregnancy can cause certain problems for the baby. One of these problems is a condition called macrosomia, which means the baby is born overweight. Babies with macrosomia can suffer from shoulder damage during birth, and they can have problems with their blood sugar and ability to breathe at birth as well. Protecting the baby from these problems is the main reason why diagnosing and treating gestational diabetes during the pregnancy is so important.

Mothers who have gestational diabetes are at risk for developing high blood pressure during the pregnancy. This leads to a higher likelihood of having to undergo a C-section when the baby is born. In addition, the mother is at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on after the baby is born.