Researchers don't know why some women develop gestational diabetes. To understand how gestational diabetes occurs, it can help to understand how pregnancy affects your body's glucose processing.
Your body digests the food you eat to produce sugar (glucose) that enters your bloodstream. In response, your pancreas — a large gland behind your stomach — produces insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose move from your bloodstream into your body's cells, where it's used as energy.
During pregnancy, the placenta, which connects your baby to your blood supply, produces high levels of various other hormones. Almost all of them impair the action of insulin in your cells, raising your blood sugar. Modest elevation of blood sugar after meals is normal during pregnancy.
As your baby grows, the placenta produces more and more insulin-blocking hormones. In gestational diabetes, the placental hormones provoke a rise in blood sugar to a level that can affect the growth and welfare of your baby. Gestational diabetes usually develops during the last half of pregnancy — sometimes as early as the 20th week, but generally not until later.
Apr. 25, 2014
- Caughey AB. Obstetrical management of pregnancies complicated by gestational diabetes. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
- Gestational diabetes. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/gestational/what-is-gestational-diabetes.html. Accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
- Coustan DR, et al. Medical management and follow-up of gestational diabetes mellitus. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
- Gestational diabetes: A guide for pregnant women. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. http://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/index.cfm/search-for-guides-reviews-and-reports/?productid=162&pageaction=displayproduct. Accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
- Greuter MJE, et al. Quality of guidelines in the management of diabetes in pregnancy: A systematic review. BioMed Central Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2012;12:58.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Committee on Practice Bulletins — Obstetrics. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 137. Gestational diabetes mellitus. Obstetrics and gynecology. 2013;122:406.
- Blumer I, et al. Diabetes and pregnancy: An Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2013;98:4227.
- Coustan DR, et al. Screening and diagnosis of diabetes mellitus during pregnancy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.