In Australia 12-14% of pregnancies are affected by gestational diabetes. Despite its prevalence, most people aren’t aware the risks don’t end when the pregnancy does.
Diabetes occurs when the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood is higher than normal. Cells in the pancreas control blood glucose levels by producing insulin. When these cells are destroyed, type 1 diabetes results. When the body becomes resistant to the action of insulin and not enough insulin can be made, this is known as type 2 diabetes.
Resistance to insulin action occurs for many reasons, including increasing age and body fat, low physical activity, hormone changes, and genetic makeup.
Gestational diabetes occurs when high blood glucose levels are detected for the first time during pregnancy. Infrequently, this is due to previously undiagnosed diabetes. More commonly, the diabetes is only related to pregnancy. Pregnancy hormones reduce insulin action and increase insulin demand, in a similar way to type 2 diabetes, but usually after the baby is born, hormones and blood glucose levels go back to normal.
Read more: Weight gain during pregnancy: how much is too much?
Factors that increase the risk of gestational diabetes include:
Weight is the major risk factor that can be changed. But in some cases, gestational diabetes may develop without any of these risk factors.
Rates of gestational diabetes in Australia have approximately doubled in the last decade. Increased testing for gestational diabetes, changing population characteristics, and higher rates of overweight and obesity may have contributed to this. There are likely to be other factors we do not fully understand.
Source: The Conversation