What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs in women while they are pregnant who did not have diabetes prior (1). Women with gestational diabetes have elevated blood sugar levels. Often, after a woman gives birth the diabetes subsides. If the diabetes does not go away, then a woman is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
Why does it happen?
While we don’t know the exact cause of gestational diabetes, we suspect hormones play a large role (2). While pregnant, your placenta produces certain hormones that increase insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone, secreted by the pancreas, that absorbs glucose from your blood into your cells to be used for energy. When your pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to compensate for the amount of hormones being secreted by your placenta, your blood sugar rises and cause gestational diabetes. Hence, why when you get rid of your placenta after birth, gestational diabetes typically will go away.
How do I manage it?
Fortunately gestational diabetes can be managed through lifestyle changes, blood glucose monitoring, and medication if necessary (3). Optimal diets include whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats, fresh fruit, and vegetables. The combination of eating foods with protein, fiber (from whole grains, fruit, and vegetables) and healthy fats help slow the breakdown of food in your stomach so glucose can be gradually released into your bloodstream, therefore avoiding a spike in blood sugar. In addition to diet, physical activity helps create insulin sensitivity which allows for better absorption of glucose from the blood.
This article was contributed by Natalie Baum MS, RD, CDN from Sammi Brondo Nutrition.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gestational Diabetes and Pregnancy. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/diabetes-gestational.html.
- Healthline. Gestational Diabetes. Available at healthline.com/health/gestational-diabetes.
- Mayo Clinic. Gestational Diabetes. Available at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gestational-diabetes/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355345.