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Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes, or high blood sugar, that only pregnant women get. In fact, the word gestational means pregnant. If a woman gets high blood sugar when she’s pregnant, but she never had high blood sugar before, she has gestational diabetes. Nearly 200,000* pregnant women get the condition every year, making it one of the top health concerns related to pregnancy.
If not treated, gestational diabetes can cause problems for mothers and babies. Some of these problems can be serious.
Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health. www.nichd.nih.gov
Why do some women get gestational diabetes?
Usually, the body breaks down much of the food you eat into a type of sugar, called glucose. Because glucose moves from the stomach into the blood, some people use the term blood sugar, instead of glucose. Your body makes a hormone called insulin that moves glucose out of the blood and into the cells of the body. In women with gestational diabetes, the glucose can’t get into the cells, so the amount of glucose in the blood gets higher and higher. This is called high blood sugar or diabetes.
What if I don’t get treated for gestational diabetes?
Most women with gestational diabetes have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies because they control their condition. Without treatment, these women are at risk for: high blood pressure, preeclampsia (a sudden, dangerous increase in blood pressure), and fetal death during the last 4 to 8 weeks of pregnancy. These women may also have very large babies. Some women need surgery to deliver their bigger babies, which can increase the risk of infection and prolong recovery time.
As babies, children whose mothers had gestational diabetes are at higher risk for breathing problems. As they get older, these children are also at higher risk for obesity, abnormal glucose tolerance, and diabetes.
These women and their children also have a higher lifetime risk for type 2 diabetes. It may be possible to prevent type 2 diabetes through lifestyle changes. Talk to your health care provider about diabetes and risk from gestational diabetes.
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