Gestational diabetes only occurs in pregnant women who have never had diabetes before. It is caused by hormonal changes and weight gains. Fortunately, the condition can be treated, especially if it's found early. For most women, gestational diabetes goes away after pregnancy; however, they are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
What Is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is diabetes that is found for the first time when a woman is pregnant. It is one of the most common health problems for pregnant women. The condition affects about 5 percent of all pregnancies, which means there are about 200,000 cases each year. If not treated, gestational diabetes can cause health problems for the mother and the fetus.
The good news is that gestational diabetes can be treated, especially if it's found early in the pregnancy. There are some things that women with the condition can do to keep themselves well and their pregnancies healthy. Controlling gestational diabetes is the key to a healthy pregnancy.
Diabetes means that your blood glucose (also called blood sugar) is too high. Your body uses glucose for energy, but too much in your blood can be harmful. When you are pregnant, too much glucose is not good for your baby either.
Your stomach and intestines break down (or digest) much of the food you eat. After digestion, the glucose passes into your bloodstream, which is why glucose is also called blood sugar. This article uses the terms "glucose" and "blood sugar" interchangeably. Once in the blood, the glucose is ready for your cells to use. But your cells need insulin, a hormone made by your body, to get the glucose. Insulin "opens" your cells so that glucose can get in. When your metabolism is normal, your body makes enough insulin to move all the glucose smoothly from your bloodstream into your cells.
If you have diabetes, your insulin and glucose levels are out of balance. Either your body doesn't make enough insulin, or your cells can't use insulin the way they should. Without insulin, the glucose that can't get into your cells builds up in your bloodstream. This is called high blood sugar, or diabetes. After a while, there is so much glucose in the blood that it spills over into your urine and passes out of your body. The medical name for diabetes, diabetes mellitus, means "sweet urine."