What causes Gestational Diabetes?
During all pregnancies the placenta secretes hormones that make it hard for insulin to work appropriately (there is increased insulin resistance). Normally, the pancreas, the organ responsible for making insulin, is able to increase the amount of insulin it produces, and therefore there is no problem. Sometimes, however, the pancreas does not compensate enough and then gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) develops. The lack of insulin causes the blood glucose (also called blood sugar) level to become higher than normal. Gestational diabetes affects between 3 and 5 percent of women during pregnancy.
Most women should be screened for gestational diabetes. Click here for more about screening for gestational diabetes.
It is important to recognize and treat gestational diabetes as soon as possible to minimize the risk of complications in the developing baby. In addition, it is important for women with a history of gestational diabetes to be tested for diabetes after pregnancy because of an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the years following delivery.
Gestational Diabetes Complications
Gestational diabetes can lead to increased risk of complications during pregnancy. These complications include:
- Having a macrosomic (large) baby (weighing more than 9 lbs or 4.1 kg)
- Having a baby with big internal organs – ie liver or heart (hepatomegaly, cardiomegaly)
- Injury to the mother or infant during delivery
- Increased chance of a cesarean delivery Hydramnios
- Respiratory problems and metabolic complications (hypoglycemia, hyperbilirubinemia, hypocalcemia, erythremia) in baby at the time of birth
Women diagnosed with gestational diabetes should be closely monitored during pregnancy.
Read more about Gestational Diabetes:
- Screening for Gestational Diabetes
- Gestational Diabetes Treatment
- Gestational Diabetes Diet – General Guidelines
- Pregnancy with Gestational Diabetes
Reviewed by Dr. Mariela Glandt, Feb. 2013