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Gestational Diabetes Causes

Causes Of Gestational Diabetes

Researchers still aren’t sure what causes certain women to develop this disease. In order to grasp the processes that lead to this temporary inaptitude to process your glucose, it is imperative to understand how pregnancy usually affects your body’s sugar processing stages.

Bodies digest the food consumed to produce sugar (also referred to as glucose) that is released into the bloodstream. In response to this process, a large gland named the pancreas (which sits between your stomach and spine), produces the peptide hormone insulin. This is the body’s main anabolic hormone. It helps glucose flow from your bloodstream, to your body’s cells, where it is released as energy.

What happens during pregnancy?

When women are pregnant, the placenta produces large amounts of different other hormones. They are insulin prohibitors in nature, and impair the hormone’s actions on your cells, which increases the levels of sugar present in your blood. However, it is important to note, should you be recording your blood sugar levels yourself, that a slight increase in blood sugar level after pregnancy is not unusual.

The further along you get in your pregnancy, the more the placenta produces these hormones that counter insulin’s effects on your body. Usually, gestational diabetes occurs during the later stages of pregnancy, but signs can sometimes be observed as early as 20 weeks.

Gestational diabetes has the potential of causing problems to both you and the unborn baby during pregnancy. On rare occasion, it can cause problems after birth. However, the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus can be entirely managed if detected early and well managed.

What are the causes of gestational diabetes?

During pregnancy, a number of hormones are produced by the placenta that can cause glucose to build up in the blood.

Usually the placenta supply fetus in the womb with nutrients and oxygen. At the same time, the placenta produces a number of hormones that help to maintain the pregnancy to full term.

However, some of the hormones produced by placenta like the human placental lactogen, have been associated with the blocking effect on insulin production. This usually begins as from the 20th week to the 24th week of pregnancy.

This contra-insulin effects the hormones produced by the placenta, leading to an elevated level of blood sugar in the blood.

Under normal conditions, the pancreas would produce sufficient insulin to restore your blood glucose to the normal level. However, if the pancreas is not in a position to produce enough insulin then you are likely to develop gestational diabetes mellitus.

Gestational Diabetes risk factors

Gestational diabetes affects as high as 10% of all pregnancies every year. You may be at risk for gestational diabetes if you are:

  •  Already were diagnosed with obesity or overweight before being pregnant

If you have been diagnosed with obesity or being overweight then you are likely to be at risk of developing gestational diabetes. Being obese or overweight is a strong predictor of diabetes mellitus.

Obesity is linked to insulin insensitivity and as a result, if you are overweight and pregnant at the same time, chances are that you are going to suffer from gestational diabetes mellitus. It is recommended to check with the doctor so as to advise you on how to manage your weight during pregnancy.

  • Native American, Hispanic, Asian, and African-American

If you are of Native American, Hispanic, Asian, or African-American origin, you are a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes. It is thought that some genes mostly found among individuals from these races promote insulin intolerance. As a result, it is highly recommended to check with the doctor for screening of gestational diabetes. Especially if you are at the second stage of pregnancy, between the 20th and 24th week.

  • Already having higher blood sugar levels prior to becoming pregnant.

If you have been previously diagnosed with elevated blood sugar levels before getting pregnant, it means that you are likely to develop gestational diabetes. This is because the human placental lactogen, which inhibits production of insulin, will further worsen the situation by reducing insulin. This will cause blood glucose to spike up to dangerous levels. It is always recommended to take a blood sugar test every so often, especially during the second half of your pregnancy if you had been previously diagnosed with elevated blood sugar levels.

  • Have a family history of genetic vulnerability to diabetes

Genes have been pointed out as one of the factors causing insulin insensitivity. Family history will help you determine if you are a high-risk individual for gestational diabetes. Start by looking at your family tree to establish if there are some individuals who have been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus. If you find that there are some family members or close relatives who have been diagnosed with diabetes then you should take gestational diabetes screen test during the second half of your pregnancy.

  • Have medical complications such as high blood pressure

Existing medical conditions and other chronic conditions such as high blood pressure have been closely linked with gestational diabetes.

  • Have previously given birth to a baby who was large

If you have previously given birth to a baby weighing more than 10lbs then it means that you are at a higher risk of gestational diabetes.

How does gestational diabetes affect you and the baby?

In most cases, women with gestational diabetes would have a normal pregnancy to full term and subsequently give birth to healthy babies.

However, under certain conditions, gestational diabetes can cause problems to the mother or the baby.

Risks to the baby

  • Babies growing larger than the normal weight and as a result, you may end up needing induced labor or have to undergo cesarean section when giving birth.
  • The newly born baby develops low blood sugar or jaundice characterized by yellowing of eyes and skin and may require immediate medical treatment.
  • Stillbirth: Giving birth to a lifeless baby. However, this is on a rare case.
  • Greater risk of respiratory distress syndrome.
  • The baby has a higher probability of developing type 2 diabetes later in life or even becoming overweight.

Complications to the mother

When women develop gestational diabetes they are at risk of various complications including;

  • Polyhydramnios: this refers to a lot of amniotic fluids in the womb that may cause complication such a premature labor or other difficulties during delivery.
  • Premature birth: you may end up giving birth before the pregnancy reaching its full term of 37 weeks.
  • Pre-eclampsia: this is a condition that commonly causes high blood pressure during pregnancy and is closely associated with a complication during pregnancy if this condition is not treated.
  • Birth complications which may necessitate the option for cesarean birth due to the large infant size.
  • An increased risk of contracting type 2 diabetes.

Final Note

Gestational diabetes is commonly caused by low insulin level in the blood. As the placenta grows it produces some hormones that inhibit the production of insulin. As a result, blood glucose level in the blood will rise to alarming levels. This condition is what is known as gestational diabetes.