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Diabetes In Pregnancy

What Is Diabetes in Pregnancy?

Friday, November 8, 2013 - 13:03
Contributors to this article: 

Meyer B Davidson MD
Guy Slowik FRCS

Diabetes mellitus, commonly known as diabetes, is a disorder in the way the body gets energy from food. It occurs:

  • When there isn't enough insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas that is essential for using food properly, or
  • When the insulin the body makes doesn't work normally

Glucose is a sugar that results from the digestion of food. When food is digested, glucose enters the bloodstream and is carried to all the cells in your body. Your cells use glucose as fuel-it is the energy that keeps you alive.

Insulin is the key that lets glucose into your cells. Without insulin, glucose can't be used for energy. Instead, it builds up in the blood. High levels of glucose in the blood can, over many years, damage blood vessels, nerves and vital organs. Some people with diabetes need daily insulin injections to prevent these complications.

There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational. Type 1 is also known as juvenile diabetes, and type 2 is known as adult onset diabetes. In relation to a woman's pregnancy, these would be described as "pre-existing" diabetes.

Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy, typically between weeks 24 and 28, and generally disappears following the birth. All types have similar symptoms and result when there is too much sugar, or glucose, in the blood.

Need To Know:

When talking about how much glucose is in your blood, your doctor may use the terms "blood glucose" or "blood sugar" interchangeably.

During pregnancy, diabetes can cause complications that affect both you and your baby. These problems are largely preventable. You can control diabetes, reduce your health risks and protect your baby by following these steps:

  • Maintain a special diet
  • Monitor your blood glucose
  • Follow a regular exercise program
  • Use insulin when necessary

Nice To Know:

The Different Types of Diabetes






Type 1


the pancreas can't make insulin

extreme thirst, hunger, fatigue

diet, exercise, and insulin injections

Type 2

adults over 40

(who are often obese)

the body cells become resistant to insulin

frequent thirst and urination

diet, exercise, diabetes pills and insulin if the pills don't work



pregnancy causes the body cells to become resistant to insulin

fatigue, thirst and frequent urination; may be easily overlooked during pregnancy

diet, exercise, and sometimes insulin injections

Facts About Diabetes In Pregnancy

  • 12.6 million, 12.6 million, or 10.8% of all women aged 20 years or older, have diabetes, a condition that affects the way your body uses food. Some develop diabetes as children. Others, especially if they are overweight, become diabetic when they are adults. In addition, almost one in five pregnant women gets a type of diabetes called gestational diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes develops in about 18 percent of all pregnant women.
  • Unlike other types of diabetes that last a lifetime, gestational diabetes usually disappears when a woman gives birth. However, 5 to 10 percent of women with gestational diabetes continue to have diabetes, usually type 2, after the pregnancy is over.
  • Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 35 to 60 percent chance of developing permanent type 2 diabetes within 10 to 20 years.
  • If you have had gestational diabetes once, you're likely to develop it again in subsequent pregnancies.
  • If you are overweight after pregnancy, you have a 60 percent chance of developing type 2 diabetes in the next 10 to 20 years. If you maintain a reasonable weight and exercise regularly, your chances of developing diabetes are less than 25 percent.


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