Gestational diabetes is when you have high levels of glucose (sugar) circulating in your blood. Normally, the amount of glucose (sugar) circulating in your blood remains relatively constant. Glucose is what helps provide energy to your muscles and brain for everyday activities. Insulin is a hormone in your body that helps take the glucose circulating in your blood and delivers it to the muscles and brain so that they have energy to function. During pregnancy, there are different hormones circulating in your body and those hormones cause your muscles and brain to become less sensitive to insulin. When they are less sensitive to insulin, more glucose (sugar) is left circulating in your blood.
Most people are able to adjust to these changes and do not have high glucose levels in their blood. Some people are not able to adjust to these changes and do have high glucose levels in their blood. There is a test you will take when you are between 26-28 weeks of pregnancy to test if you are able to tolerate these changes in glucose levels or not. Often, women do not experience any symptoms if they have high glucose during pregnancy, which is why it is important to get tested at your prenatal visit.
If you are not able to tolerate these changes, you may have to change your diet to eat less foods that will cause your glucose (sugar) levels to rise to high. In more serious cases, you may have to take medication or take extra insulin (the hormone that takes glucose from the blood to the muscles) in order to keep your glucose levels low. It is important to keep your glucose levels at a normal level because it can cause serious problems with your pregnancy. Higher glucose levels in your blood increase your risk of complications such as birth defects, high blood pressure, or growing a baby that is too big in your womb. If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you will need extra testing and monitoring during your pregnancy.
If you were diagnosed with gestational diabetes in your pregnancy, it is important to be tested for diabetes after your deliver your baby. If you had gestational diabetes in pregnancy, you are more at risk of having diabetes that has not been detected yet or developing diabetes later in life.
Ways to reduce your chances of developing gestational diabetes are similar to those for diabetes. Before you get pregnant, it is important to exercise, maintain an ideal weight, eats lots of fruits and vegetables, and consume a high-fiber, low carbohydrate (sugar) diet.