Gestational diabetes is first diagnosed during pregnancy. Like type 1 and type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes causes blood sugar levels to become too high.
When you eat, your digestive system breaks down most of the food into a sugar called glucose. Glucose enters your bloodstream so your cells can use it as fuel. With the help of insulin (a hormone made by your pancreas), muscle, fat, and other cells absorb glucose from your blood.
But if your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or if the cells have a problem responding to it, too much glucose remains in your blood instead of moving into cells and getting converted to energy.
When you’re pregnant, your body naturally becomes more resistant to insulin so that more glucose is available to nourish your baby. For most moms-to-be, this isn’t a problem: When your body needs additional insulin to process excess glucose in blood, the pancreas secretes more.
But if the pancreas can’t keep up with the increased demand for insulin during pregnancy, blood sugar levels rise too high because the cells aren’t using the glucose. This results in gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes needs to be recognized and treated quickly because it can cause health problems for mother and baby.
Unlike other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes isn’t permanent. Once a baby is born, blood sugar will most likely return to normal quickly. However, having gestational diabetes does make developing diabetes in the future more likely.