Pregnant women who develop high blood sugar levels during pregnancy, without a history of diabetes, are said to have gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is common, affecting about 1 in every 5 pregnancies.
Gestational diabetes occurs when insulin receptors do not function properly. This is likely due to hormones from the pregnancy interfering with certain insulin receptors. This results in insulin resistance and in turn causes elevated blood sugar levels. The body requires more insulin to function properly.
Gestational diabetes generally has few symptoms and it is most commonly diagnosed by screening during pregnancy. Symptoms may include: increased thirst, excessive urination, excessive hunger, fatigue, and irritability.
If gestational diabetes is not managed throughout the pregnancy there will likely be health consequences for both the mother and child. Women with uncontrolled gestational diabetes are at a higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes after pregnancy, as well as higher odd of pre-eclampsia and c-section. Babies born to mothers with uncontrolled blood glucose levels are typically much larger which can lead to problems with delivery. Babies are also prone to developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
Most women with gestational diabetes are able to manage their blood glucose levels through diet and exercise, but some may require insulin.