Gestational Diabetes - what is it & what causes it?
I am super excited to post my very first episode of IGTV! Click the link below to get your learning on.
I’ve also typed up what I talked about for those who would like to read instead of listen. Let me know your questions in the comments!
Gestational diabetes is elevated blood sugar that happens only in pregnancy.
To explain why this happens, let's get into the basics of blood sugar in general and how ideally it's supposed to function. Your body's most efficient source of energy is glucose. Glucose is a simple sugar molecule that is in the carbohydrates we eat. When we eat carbohydrates, let's say it's an apple, your gut is going to break down the starches and sugars, and you'll absorb glucose into your blood. Now, your blood doesn't really need the sugar, it's your other cells that do. So, right when you start eating that apple, your body is already telling your pancreas to start releasing a hormone called insulin. Insulin's job is to tell the cells in your body that they can let in some awesome energy. So, they open up, pull some glucose from your blood, your blood sugar goes back down and your cells are happy.
People with Type 1 diabetes can't make insulin, so they have to get it from shots or a pump to make sure their bodies can use the carbs they eat. In the beginnings of some other forms of diabetes, your cells start to become insulin resistant. This means that even though the pancreas is producing insulin, the cells aren't responding like they should, and sugar is staying in the blood instead of going where it needs to go to be used for energy. I won't get into all the risks of that, but in general it's not great for your body.
In pregnancy, the placenta naturally releases hormones that make the mother's body a little resistant to insulin.
What this does is help leave some sugar in the mom's blood so that it can be funneled to the fetus for energy. Her pancreas compensates by producing a little more insulin so she can still use some of the carbs she eats. Super cool right??
Gestational diabetes is when this system gets a little out of whack.
Some women get a little too insulin resistant, and others might not be able to produce enough insulin to keep up with it all. What causes it is complicated and depends on the individual, but virtually every pregnant woman has at least one risk factor for gestational diabetes. There are some things you can do before getting pregnant to help lower your risk for gestational diabetes, starting with asking your doctor to check something called your hemoglobin A1c, which is a measure of your average blood glucose over about 3 months. If it's a little high, or even if it's fine and you just want to check in on your relationship with food and see if there's any healthy habits you can implement before getting pregnant, you can meet with a registered dietitian.
Curious about working with me? You an read a bit about my approach to gestational diabetes in this post, but be sure to also check out how my nutrition counseling services can help you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.