Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that is found during pregnancy. If you have gestational diabetes, you have high blood sugars caused from an imbalance of insulin and glucose levels. When you eat, your food in broken down into a sugar called glucose. Glucose gives your body the energy it needs to work. Blood vessels move the sugar in your blood to where it is used (muscles) or stored (fat). But to do this glucose needs insulin.
Your pancreas releases insulin into your blood to help let the sugar into the cells by opening the cell “door”. When sugar leaves the bloodstream and enters the cells, the blood glucose level is lowered. Without the right amount of insulin, the sugar will stay in the bloodstream causing hyperglycemia or diabetes. During pregnancy, the placenta makes certain hormones that prevent insulin from working the way it is supposed to. Your body has to make more insulin to overcome the hormones made by the placenta. For some women, at around the 24th week of pregnancy, their body can not keep up with their insulin needs and they end up with high blood sugar.
A woman is diagnosed with gestational diabetes when she is pregnant with high blood sugar, but she never had it before her pregnancy. If left untreated, gestational diabetes can lead to health problems, some of them serious.
Most women with gestational diabetes have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies because they follow their treatment plan that their health care providers set up for them. A general treatment plan includes:
- Education from a Diabetes Educator
- Knowing your blood sugar level and keeping it under control by testing and logging the results.
- Eating a healthy diet, as prescribed by your health care provider
- Getting exercise
- Taking insulin and/or other medications as prescribed, if needed.