What is gestational diabetes?
Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, is needed to move blood sugar into the cells in your body for use as energy. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy due to insulin resistance, which means your body can’t make and effectively use enough insulin, the American Diabetes Association explains.
What causes gestational diabetes?
When you are expecting, your body goes through changes, including weight gain and the release of special hormones. While these changes are normal in pregnancy, they affect the body’s ability to use insulin.
By the late months of pregnant, all pregnant women have some insulin resistance — but for most, it does not increase blood sugar enough to cause gestational diabetes. However, in women who do develop the condition, their bodies can’t produce enough insulin to overcome insulin resistance, causing blood sugar levels to soar.
Risks factors for gestational diabetes
There are several documented risk factors for the condition.
- Women who are overweight or obese often have developed insulin resistance before they become pregnant, so they start pregnancy with a higher risk for gestational diabetes.
- Gaining too much weight during pregnancy may also be a cause in triggering the condition, according to the CDC.
- Having a family history of diabetes makes it more likely that a woman will develop gestational diabetes, which suggests genes play a role in causing the condition, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) points out.
- Advanced maternal age (women older than 35 to 40).
April 07, 2020
Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA