You may not know it, but Gestational Diabetes Mellitus is more common than most people realize. That’s because Gestational Diabetes (GDM) is based on hormones. You don’t have to be diabetic or even pre-diabetic to develop GDM during your pregnancy. Hormonal changes in a pregnant body subject a woman to developing diabetes during the time that her baby is developing. Once she delivers, and hormones return to normal levels, GDM disappears.
So, here’s how it happens:
When you’re not pregnant, your pancreas secretes insulin to uptake sugar out of your bloodstream into your cells (so it can be used/stored for energy). When you’re pregnant, not only are you producing insulin, but your baby’s pancreas produces insulin as well. When your baby’s insulin is sufficient to uptake the sugar (glucose) out of his bloodstream, you may be left with an increase of sugar in YOUR bloodstream which leads to hyperglcycemia (aka diabetes).
How do you end up with too much sugar in your bloodstream:
During pregnancy, insulin sensitivity in the mother decreases so that some of her glucose will make its way to the fetus. The developing fetus uses glucose for growth and energy too. Decreased insulin sensitivity in the mother ultimately leads to insulin resistence and elevated glucose. Remember, insulin is needed to remove the glucose out of the bloodstream into the cells.
Because mom’s glucose levels are high (because her baby needs her excess glucose) she becomes hyperglycemic. Her baby also becomes hyperglycemic and grows a lot – thus, she births a big baby. Her insulin levels never regulate properly because, the short of it is – they’re hormones. Once baby is born, things level out back to normal.
However, women who experience GIM are at an increased risk fo developing Diabetes Type II later on in life. Most likely, you will be screened for GIM at you doctor’s office – but if you exhibit an excessive amount of thirst, urination, or you’re at an advanced pregnancy age – talk to your healthcare provider about getting checked. In another post, I’ll describe what mom’s can do to prevent GDM before pregnancy, and what to eat if you are diagnosed.