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Gestational Diabetes: Why Do Some Women Develop It in Pregnancy?

By HERWriter
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Gestational Diabetes: Why Do Some Pregnant Women Develop It? emiliau/Fotolia

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that develops during a woman’s pregnancy. The woman did not have diabetes prior to the pregnancy, though she may have had risk factors for it. Having elevated blood sugars levels may endanger the health of the unborn baby.

Gestational diabetes is usually discovered mid-pregnancy around the 24th to 28th weeks, which is the routine time doctors check to see how a woman’s blood sugars are doing. Because there are often no symptoms of gestational diabetes, it is important that pregnant women are checked.

“According to the American Diabetes Association, gestational diabetes typically affects 18 percent of all pregnant women,” reported Healthline.com.

Why It Happens

Doctors are not entirely sure why some women develop gestational diabetes, though it is believed that hormones are involved.

During pregnancy, the placenta produces a hormone called human placental lactogen (hPL), which helps the baby grow by changing the way the mother’s body metabolizes carbohydrates and lipids. Additional estrogen and cortisol are also produced to help maintain the pregnancy.

It is thought that the release of hPL affects the way the mother’s body responds to insulin so that glucose levels become increased in her body to better provide nutrition to the growing infant.

Endocrineweb.com states that at 15 weeks, the mother’s body also produces another hormone called human placental growth hormone (hGH). The release of this hormone further raises the levels of blood sugar in the mother’s body to assure that they are high enough to feed the infant.

Unfortunately, gestational diabetes can occur if the woman’s blood sugars become too high.

Risk Factors

Though it is unclear as to why some women get gestational diabetes and others do not, there are risk factors that make a woman more susceptible.

- Family history: Having other family with diabetes or a history of gestational diabetes, or if a woman has had other pregnancies with gestational diabetes

- Age: Being over 25 years old

- Weight and hypertension: Being overweight or having high blood pressure

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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.