What Is Gestational Diabetes Mellitus?

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  • Written By: Amber Eberle
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2018
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Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the blood sugar levels are too high and are not properly regulated by the body. Gestational diabetes mellitus occurs when a woman who has never been diagnosed with diabetes becomes affected by the disease while she is pregnant. Research has shown that gestational diabetes mellitus affects about 5 percent of all pregnant women.

During pregnancy, the body is most concerned with giving nutrients to the fetus to promote development and growth. While a woman is pregnant, her body might stop the way that insulin — a hormone that breaks down sugar for the body to use as energy — works in the body. The placenta is vital in the development of a fetus. In some women, the hormones given out by the placenta interfere with the proper functioning of the pancreas and the levels of insulin.

In a normal pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones to prevent the mother from experiencing a low blood sugar level. As the pregnancy continues to progress, the pancreas tries to produce more insulin, which is used by the body as energy. If a woman cannot produce enough insulin to overcome the rate that pregnancy hormones affect normal functioning, as well as a rising blood sugar level, she will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes as her blood sugar level rises.


Gestational diabetes mellitus, which usually is detected between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy via a blood test, carries increased risk to the fetus. A baby born to a mother who has this condition might be larger than a normal newborn. A woman might be more likely to suffer from gestational diabetes mellitus if she is overweight, has a history of birthing a large baby or has a family history of diabetes. There also are several groups of people, such as blacks or American Indians, who are at a higher risk for gestational diabetes mellitus.

It is very important for a pregnant woman who has gestational diabetes mellitus to control the condition. If a woman is diagnosed with diabetes, she will have to work closely with her obstetrician to ensure that the baby is developing properly. In extreme cases of gestational diabetes mellitus, the mother might need to check her blood sugar level several times each day and give herself insulin shots. The majority of mothers are able to control gestational diabetes mellitus through a change of diet while monitoring their blood sugar level.



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