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What is Gestational Diabetes?

whatgestationaldiabetes.jpgDiabetes, gestational or not, is a disorder characterized by an elevated level of sugar in your blood, caused either because your body doesn?t produce enough insulin, or cannot properly use the insulin it does create. According to the March of Dimes, about 1% of women have diabetes before they become pregnant, and about 3-7% more will develop ?gestational diabetes? during pregnancy.

Interestingly, almost all women have a higher level of blood sugar during pregnancy than while not pregnant; this is due to hormonal changes. During pregnancy, your body creates extra hormones that help transfer nutrients from you to your developing baby; another set of extra hormones helps counteract the insulin your body produces to help you avoid getting blood sugar levels that are too low. At the same time, your pancreas has to create about three times the normal amount of insulin; if your body cannot produce enough insulin, you will develop gestational diabetes.

Women who develop gestational diabetes have a lower concern for risk than a pregnant woman with pre-gestational diabetes, as gestational diabetes usually does not present a concern for increased risk of birth defects.

Doctors routinely screen for gestational diabetes however, because controlling it relieves many of the problems gestational diabetes could cause. For example, uncontrolled gestational diabetes can result in ?macrosomia??the technical term for having a very large baby (ten pounds or more). Macrosomia results because the extra sugar in the mother?s blood crosses into the placenta, and the baby stores it as fat. In addition, women with poorly controlled gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of developing preeclampsia (high blood pressure) and polyhydramnios (an abundance of amniotic fluid).

If you develop gestational diabetes, your doctor will work with you to create lifestyle changes, such as diet, exercise, and possibly taking insulin, to control your blood sugar level. With this continual monitoring and control, you will most likely deliver a perfectly healthy baby.


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