What is Pregnancy-Induced Diabetes? (with pictures)

Erin J. Hill
Erin J. Hill
A person with foot and ankle swelling, which is a sign of pregnancy-induced diabetes.
A person with foot and ankle swelling, which is a sign of pregnancy-induced diabetes.

Pregnancy-induced diabetes, also known as gestational diabetes, is a condition which causes blood glucose to not be broken down correctly. This can lead to higher than normal blood sugar levels and can cause potential complications with the pregnancy. It is thought that pregnancy-induced diabetes is caused by certain hormones secreted by the placenta interacting with insulin in the bloodstream.

Blood sugar can be tested with a finger prick test.
Blood sugar can be tested with a finger prick test.

Much like Type 2 diabetes, pregnancy-induced diabetes is caused by increased levels of insulin in the blood and the body’s resistance to its effects. While those with Type 2 diabetes become this way due to long-term overeating of refined carbohydrates and sugar, women with gestational diabetes become insulin resistant because of pregnancy hormones. These hormones react with insulin in the bloodstream and make it less effective at breaking down glucose, thus leading to higher insulin production levels.

Pregnant women who develop gestational diabetes may be able to manage their symptoms through a well-balanced diet and exercise.
Pregnant women who develop gestational diabetes may be able to manage their symptoms through a well-balanced diet and exercise.

In most cases pregnancy-induced diabetes is diagnosed during a routine blood glucose test toward the middle of pregnancy. If initial testing shows high blood sugar levels, additional tests are performed to make a diagnosis. Women who are found to have gestational diabetes are usually required to follow a specialized diet and exercise program to control blood sugar.

Infants born to mothers with pregnancy-induced diabetes are more likley to have breathing problems.
Infants born to mothers with pregnancy-induced diabetes are more likley to have breathing problems.

Infants born to mothers with pregnancy-induced diabetes are more likely to have breathing problems, jaundice, or to suffer from low blood sugar levels due to an overproduction of insulin in their own bodies. They are also more likely to be extremely large, making delivery more difficult. These children may also have a higher instance of diabetes later in life. Women who properly control gestational diabetes with diet and exercise lower these risks for their unborn children.

Women who have had pregnancy-induced diabetes are at an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives. This is especially true for those who eat a diet high in sugar and refined or heavily processed foods. To avoid diabetes later on, women should eat a diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and non-fat dairy. This can help to lower the risk of developing pre-diabetes and diabetes.

There is an increased risk for gestational diabetes for women who are overweight and for those who have given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds (4.1 kg). Additional risk factors include pre-diabetes, poor diet, and lack of exercise. Some researchers speculate that gestational diabetes occurs in some cases because the woman is borderline diabetic or pre-diabetic before pregnancy without having known. Most of the time, diabetes goes away within a few weeks of delivery.

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    • A person with foot and ankle swelling, which is a sign of pregnancy-induced diabetes.
      A person with foot and ankle swelling, which is a sign of pregnancy-induced diabetes.
    • Blood sugar can be tested with a finger prick test.
      Blood sugar can be tested with a finger prick test.
    • Pregnant women who develop gestational diabetes may be able to manage their symptoms through a well-balanced diet and exercise.
      Pregnant women who develop gestational diabetes may be able to manage their symptoms through a well-balanced diet and exercise.
    • Infants born to mothers with pregnancy-induced diabetes are more likley to have breathing problems.
      Infants born to mothers with pregnancy-induced diabetes are more likley to have breathing problems.