This type of diabetes is a temporary form of insulin resistance that usually occurs halfway through a pregnancy. It results from excessive hormone production in the body, or the inability of the pancreas to make the additional insulin that is needed during pregnancy in women with no previous history of diabetes. Without enough insulin, sugar builds up in the blood to high levels. This is called hyperglycemia.
Gestational diabetes affects about four percent of all pregnant women although it usually goes away after childbirth. Untreated gestational diabetes can lead to problems for both the mother and the child. Although insulin does not cross through the placenta to the baby, sugar and other nutrients do.
Extra blood sugar goes through the placenta, giving the baby a high blood sugar level. This causes the baby’s pancreas to produce extra insulin to get rid of the blood sugar, which can lead to macrosomia or a fat baby syndrome. Microsomatia develops because extra blood sugar and insulin cause the baby’s body to produce extra fat.
Babies with macrosomia are prone to other health problems including damage to their shoulders during birth. Because of the extra insulin newborns may have very low blood sugar levels at birth and may also have a higher risk of breathing problems.
The treatment of gestational diabetes should start quickly to prevent adverse effects to the mother and the baby. It should aim to keep blood sugar levels equal to those of pregnant women who do not have gestational diabetes. Treatment includes special meal plans and scheduled physical activity as well as daily blood sugar testing, so as to keep it under control.