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Q&A: What Is Gestational Diabetes?

What exactly is gestational diabetes?
Updated
March 2, 2017
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Some women develop diabetes only during pregnancy; it is called gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is defined as glucose intolerance that is first diagnosed in pregnancy, and it occurs when pregnancy hormones affect how the body makes or uses insulin, which is a hormone that converts sugar in food into energy the body uses.

If your body doesn’t make enough insulin or if it doesn’t use the insulin appropriately, the level of sugar in the blood rises to an unacceptable level. This is called hyperglycemia and means you have too much sugar in your blood. Occasionally, hormones made by the placenta can also hamper the actions of insulin, and gestational diabetes can occur. Several other factors can affect your glucose levels, including stress, the time of day (glucose values are often higher in the morning), the amount of exercise you do and the amount of carbohydrates in your diet.

Gestational diabetes affects about 10% of all pregnancies. After pregnancy is over, nearly all women who experience this problem return to normal, and the problem disappears. However, if gestational diabetes occurs with one pregnancy, there is almost a 90% chance it will recur in subsequent pregnancies. In addition, studies show that 20 to 50% of those women who develop gestational diabetes may develop type-2 diabetes within 10 years.

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| From _ Your Pregnancy Week By Week, 6/e by Glade Curtis, M.D. and Judith Schuler, M.S. Reprinted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2007. _ |

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