August 29, 2016
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Gestational Diabetes

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What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is diabetes, or high blood sugar levels, that develops during pregnancy. It occurs in about 4% of all pregnancies. It is usually diagnosed in the later stages of pregnancy and often occurs in women who have no prior history of diabetes.

What causes gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is thought to arise because the many changes, hormonal and otherwise, that occur in the body during pregnancy predispose some women to become resistant to insulin. Insulin is a hormone made by specialized cells in the pancreas that allows the body to effectively metabolize glucose for later useage as fuel (energy). When levels of insulin are low, or the body cannot effectively use insulin (i.e. insulin resistance), blood glucose levels rise.

What are risk factors for gestational diabetes?

Some degree of insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance is normal in late pregnancy. However, in some women, this is enough to produce diabetes of pregnancy, or gestational diabetes. There are several risk factors that can increase your risk of getting gestational diabetes. Risk factors include:

  • Obesity;
  • A history of gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy;
  • Previous delivery of an infant with a high birth weight (over 9 pounds);
  • A parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes;
  • A personal history polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS);
  • African American, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander American ethnicity; or
  • Having pre-diabetes
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/29/2016


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