Gestational Diabetes: Pregnancy and Diabetes Mythbusters
If your doctor has just told you that you have gestational diabetes, you may not know how concerned you should be. On one hand, you know that diabetes is a serious condition, and that may worry you. On the other, youve been told that this type of diabetes goes away after you deliver your baby, so you may think that you dont have to do anything about it.
Whats a myth and whats a fact?
Myth: You get gestational diabetes from gaining too much weight during your pregnancy.
Fact: Medical experts dont know exactly what causes gestational diabetes, but they have some clues. The same hormones from the placenta that help the baby develop also block the action of the mothers insulin in her body. This is called insulin resistance, and it makes it hard for the mother’s body to use insulin. She may need up to three times as much insulin, but her body may not be able to make and use that much, which is when gestational diabetes begins.
Myth: Gestational diabetes can cause birth defects.
Fact: Gestational diabetes affects the mother in late pregnancy, when the babys body has already been formed. Because of this, it doesnt cause the kinds of birth defects sometimes seen in babies whose mothers had diabetes before pregnancy.
Myth: You can ignore gestational diabetes, since it will go away after delivery anyway.
Fact: Untreated or poorly controlled gestational diabetes can hurt your baby. When you have this condition, you cant produce enough insulin to lower your blood glucose levels. That extra blood glucose goes through the placenta, giving the baby high blood glucose levels, which prompts the baby’s pancreas to make extra insulin. Since the baby is getting more energy than it needs to grow and develop, the extra energy is stored as fat.
This can lead to a fat baby, or macrosomia. Having a big baby can make a vaginal delivery difficult, and can damage the babys shoulders during birth. Newborns of mothers with gestational diabetes may have very low blood glucose levels at birth and are also at higher risk for breathing problems. And babies with excess insulin become children who are at risk for obesity and adults who are at risk for type 2 diabetes.
Myth: After you deliver your baby, gestational diabetes is gone and you dont have to worry about it again.
Fact: Once you’ve had gestational diabetes, your chances are 2 in 3 that it will return in future pregnancies. And many women who have gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes years later.
If you have gestational diabetes, work with your health care team to lower your high blood glucose levels. With their help, you can stop worrying and start enjoying a healthy pregnancy for you and your baby.