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Gestational Diabetes: Causes, Affects and Treatment

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Let’s define gestational diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), gestational diabetes occurs when pregnant women who don't normally have diabetes develop high blood sugar (glucose) levels during pregnancy. The ADA further reports that there are approximately 135,000 cases of gestational diabetes in the U.S. each year (4% of all pregnancies).

What Causes It?

It’s hard for scientists to find the true cause of this condition, but they do know some things for sure. For example, even though the hormones from the placenta help the baby grow, these same hormones can somehow interfere with the mother’s insulin in her own body. Doctor’s call this reaction insulin resistance. As the term indicates, insulin resistance makes it very difficult for an individual to utilize insulin. In this case, it’s the mother’s. Some women need up to 3 times as much insulin during pregnancy than they normally do, as indicated by the ADA.

Affects to the Baby

Although gestational diabetes doesn’t cause birth defects, it can cause harm to the unborn child if left untreated. With this condition, the pancreas is overworked. It’s trying to produce enough insulin, but is unsuccessful, causing glucose levels to rise sharply. The extra sugars go to the baby through the placenta, resulting in high blood glucose levels for the baby. In turn, the baby’s pancreas is now working feverishly to get rid of the extra blood glucose. The extra sugars that cannot be worked off turn into fat. And according to the ADA, this leads to macrosomia, or in common terms, a "fat" baby.

Fat babies may injure their shoulders during delivery, have very low blood glucose, a higher risk of breathing problems, and may be at risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes later on in life.


Good prenatal care is vital for any pregnancy. This is even more important when unexpected problems like gestational diabetes occur.The aim of your medical team will be to keep blood sugar levels normal. Expect special dietary changes, an approved exercise program, possible daily glucose testing and insulin injections.

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Nice article on gestational diabetes. When I was pregnant, I had 2 doctors who worked together. The one who would be delivering me said my glucose levels were fine (after having to take a second glucose test--yuck!) but the other insisted that my glucose levels were still too high. This was reported to me when I was 34 weeks pregnant-- Not much time to fix my problem, right? Well, I still don't know if I did or did not have gestational diabetes, but I had a healthy 6lb, 10oz baby.

August 26, 2009 - 6:01am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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