One of the most common complications during pregnancy is the development of gestational diabetes. Approximately 5 percent of pregnant women will develop this disorder. In patients with diabetes, the body is unable to use insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that allows the body to convert the foods we eat into energy. The energy is stored in the form of sugar, or glucose. As insulin enters the blood stream, it enables glucose to enter the cells.
In patients with diabetes, insulin is either not produced or does not work properly. The body cannot get glucose out of the blood and into the cells where it is needed. Glucose builds up in the blood as cells become starved for energy. Gestational diabetes is diabetes that develops during the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy in women who did not previously have diabetes, or who were undiagnosed prior to becoming pregnant.
During pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones that enter the blood stream and which interfere with the body's ability to use insulin. The accumulating glucose that circulates in the mother's blood stream can cross the placenta and cause problems for the baby.
Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes may develop:
- Macrosomia: being too large for gestational age, or
- Hypoglycemia: having low blood sugar
In addition these infants are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Fortunately, gestational diabetes is a condition that can be well managed. Most women with gestational diabetes deliver normal, healthy babies.
It is important that women diagnosed with gestational diabetes:
- Keep their blood glucose levels under control
- Eat a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- See their doctor regularly