Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that begins during pregnancy and usually resolves after the baby is born.
During pregnancy, placental hormones (growth hormone, prolactin, cortisol, placental lactogen, progesterone) are produced that can block the effectiveness of insulin, leading to a relative insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body convert food into energy. Without insulin, glucose from the food you eat cannot enter cells, and glucose builds up in the blood.
In most women, the pancreas increases insulin production enough to offset this resistance. When the pancreas fails to keep pace, gestational diabetes occurs. In addition to causing problems for the mother, the excess glucose in the blood can cross the placenta and cause problems for the baby.
Complications for women with gestational diabetes mellitus include an increased chance of:
Complications affecting the fetus or infant include:
- Macrosomia (abnormally large baby) and problems during delivery (such as, shoulder dystocia )
- Respiratory distress syndrome (breathing problems)
- Other conditions (such as, low blood glucose levels, low calcium levels, high bilirubin levels)
- Increased rate of stillbirth
Children whose mothers had gestational diabetes are at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes .
If you have gestational diabetes, maintaining good control over your glucose levels during pregnancy significantly reduces the risk of complications to you and to your baby.
Last reviewed September 2014 by Andrea Chisholm, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.