A pregnant woman sits in a doctor's office while having her blood sugar tested

Why Are Pregnant Women Prone to Diabetes?

Pregnancy can be a beautiful, exciting experience. However, about nine percent of all pregnant women develop symptoms of diabetes while carrying their child. Whether you’re pregnant or you’ve been thinking about having a baby, learning about gestational diabetes can help you understand your risk and learn some healthy behaviors you can use to avoid its onset.

What Is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a condition similar to type 2 diabetes in that it occurs because the body has developed a resistance to insulin, the hormone that breaks down blood sugar and distributes it to the cells as an energy source. Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy and typically goes away once the child is born, while type 2 diabetes can occur at any time.

However, about 50 percent of women who experience gestational diabetes eventually develop type 2 diabetes, so making healthy choices and visiting with your doctor regularly after giving birth is important.

What Causes Gestational Diabetes?

In the later stages of pregnancy, the placenta releases hormones that increase the mother’s insulin resistance. Women who already had high insulin resistance before becoming pregnant could have extra difficulty breaking down blood sugar, leading to gestational diabetes.

Who's at Risk for Gestational Diabetes?

Women who have previously experienced gestational diabetes, have a family history of type 2 diabetes, are older than 25, are overweight, or have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes.

What Can I Do to Prevent Gestational Diabetes?

If you are thinking of becoming pregnant, speak with your doctor about what’s a healthy weight to achieve before conceiving. If already pregnant, losing weight can be dangerous, so speak with your doctor about a healthy weight management plan as you progress through your pregnancy.

Why Is Managing Gestational Diabetes Important?

Unmanaged blood sugar levels throughout pregnancy can result in a heavier birth weight for baby, the need for delivery by cesarean section, premature delivery, high blood pressure, and a higher likelihood of your child developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Whether you’re thinking about becoming pregnant or you already have a little one on the way, schedule an appointment with your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group OB/GYN to create a plan for having a healthy pregnancy and find out more about the services offered at CHI St. Luke’s Health Family Birthing Centers.

Sources:
CDC | Gestational Diabetes
CDC | Gestational Diabetes and Pregnancy
American Diabetes Association | After Delivery
Diabetes Forecast | The Science of Diabetes and Pregnancy
CDC | Who's at Risk?
Pregnancy & Diabetes | Insulin changes during pregnancy