Why Do Women Get Diabetes During Pregnancy

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 04/08/2024

Pregnancy is one of the most strenuous events a woman's body can be put through. When dealing with a pregnancy, it is important to arm yourself with all the knowledge possible to avoid health pitfalls.

Learn about gestational diabetes, what the symptoms are, and how you can avoid this condition.

Understanding Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. It's not just about having high blood sugar levels but also about how your body manages insulin production and use.

Diabetes can be dangerous for the mom and her baby if not managed properly.

Word hormones on wooden cubes

Hormonal Changes During Pregnancy and Their Impact

Pregnancy brings with it an array of hormonal changes. One hormone that significantly increases late in pregnancy is cortisol - the adrenal stress hormone. This cortisol surge increases protein conversion into sugar, causing higher-than-normal blood glucose levels.

This condition might sound complicated, but think of it as a car engine running on overdrive – you get more power (sugar) but at the cost of potential damage (insulin resistance).

While this process provides extra energy for childbirth preparation, it can lead to gestational diabetes if too much-unused glucose is circulating.

Insulin Resistance and Pregnancy

Insulin resistance is often seen as a pre-diabetic condition, which means your cells aren't using insulin effectively anymore. Imagine trying to open a door with a rusty key; you might succeed eventually after some struggle.

That happens when your body resists insulin, and glucose struggles to get inside your cells where needed most.

Insulin resistance tends to worsen during pregnancy partly because hormones produced by the placenta block the action of the mom’s insulin, potentially leading to full-blown gestational diabetes.

Preemptive Measures Against Gestational Diabetes

If you're expecting to become pregnant, taking steps to address any insulin resistance issues prior is beneficial. It’s like fixing your roof before the rainstorm hits, much easier and safer.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases suggests regular exercise, healthy dieting, and maintaining an ideal body weight as effective preemptive measures.

Hormonal Changes During Pregnancy and Their Impact

Your body experiences a hormonal rollercoaster ride during pregnancy, which can impact the way it handles sugar. Specifically, late in pregnancy, there is an increase in cortisol and other hormones that play crucial roles.

Role of Cortisol in Pregnancy

Cortisol isn't just about stress—it also plays a key role during pregnancy. It's often called the 'adrenal stress hormone,' but its functions go beyond managing stress levels.

In expectant mothers, increased cortisol levels have been linked to higher blood sugar levels. Here’s the kicker: these raised blood sugar levels may contribute to gestational diabetes.

Conversion of Protein into Sugar

Buckle up for some science. When we say "conversion of protein into sugar," we're talking about gluconeogenesis—sounds fancy, right? But don’t worry; I'll break it down for you.

Gluconeogenesis happens when your liver converts non-carbohydrate substances like proteins into glucose or ‘sugar.’

This process usually kicks in when your body needs more glucose than what’s available from food intake.

Preemptive Measures Against Gestational Diabetes

Planning for a baby is an exciting time. To prevent the risks associated with gestational diabetes, addressing any existing insulin resistance before pregnancy is essential.

The Role of Insulin Resistance in Pregnancy

In basic terms, insulin resistance implies that your body isn't utilizing insulin successfully. This condition can lead to high blood sugar levels and is considered pre-diabetes.

Hormones related to pregnancy make the situation more intricate, as they trigger the body's cells to be less responsive to insulin, escalating the likelihood of gestational diabetes.

The Impact on Mother and Baby

Without proper management, gestational diabetes can be risky for both mom and baby.

Moms might face a higher risk of high blood pressure or preeclampsia. Babies aren't safe either; they could grow larger than usual, making delivery more challenging.

Fighting Insulin Resistance Before Pregnancy

If you're planning on getting pregnant and know that you have insulin resistance, there are steps you can take beforehand to help keep your blood sugars stable during pregnancy.

  1. Maintaining a healthy weight: Extra pounds stress your body’s ability to use insulin correctly. Try gentle exercises along with balanced nutrition.

  2. Eat wisely: Choose foods low in carbs.

  3. Sleep well: Good sleep habits also contribute significantly to efficiently managing blood sugar levels.

A Proactive Approach Can Make A Difference

Gestational diabetes may sound scary, but taking preemptive measures helps manage its associated risks.

Start by talking with healthcare professionals who understand these challenges; endocrinologists or dieticians could be good starting points. They'll give personalized advice tailored just for your situation.

Remember, knowledge is power. Comprehending the association between insulin resistance and gestational diabetes can assist you in making informed choices regarding your well-being and that of your infant.

The Role of Adrenal Health in Pregnancy

Small but mighty adrenal glands play a crucial role during pregnancy. They manage your body's stress response and maintain the balance of hormones.

But when these little powerhouses aren't functioning optimally, they can contribute to gestational diabetes.

Adrenal Issues and Pregnancy

When you're expecting, your adrenals are like busy elves working overtime. They produce more cortisol - the "stress hormone". However, problems arise if your adrenals struggle under this extra load.

Studies have shown that women with weakened adrenal function may experience higher levels of insulin resistance – a key player in gestational diabetes.

So, tired or overworked adrenals could make it harder for your body to handle sugar during pregnancy.

The Impact of Stress and Lack of Sleep

Pregnancy is exciting but also stressful on both emotional and physical fronts. And guess what? Your adrenal glands respond directly to this stress by producing even more cortisol.

Combine high-stress situations with lackadaisical sleep patterns and cortisol levels will be at an all-time high.

The Harvard Medical School explains how chronic high-stress conditions, including inadequate rest, can push our bodies into survival mode, leading us toward potential health complications such as gestational diabetes.

Imagine your adrenal glands as overworked employees on a sugar high; they are jittery and overwhelmed and don't process the sugar properly. And bam. You're at risk of gestational diabetes.

Managing Stress for a Healthy Pregnancy

Gestational diabetes can be challenging, but don't let it stress you out. A calm mind and body are your best allies in this journey. It's time to give some thought to managing stress effectively.

Stress Management Techniques

The hustle of daily life can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially during pregnancy. But there's help with proven techniques that can ease the burden.

By practicing breathing exercises, which have been found to reduce anxiety and lift moods, one can combat the stress of daily life during pregnancy.

Another helpful method is progressive muscle relaxation - systematically tensing and then relaxing each muscle group. This helps release tension physically, leading to mental relief as well.

Pregnant woman holds in palms symbol in heart shape. Loving mom waiting of a baby.

Tips for Better Sleep

A good night’s sleep also plays a pivotal role in managing stress levels. Here are some practical tips:

  • Create a serene sleep environment. Dark, quiet, cool rooms work best.

  • Prioritize consistency and try to always stick to the same bedtime every night; regularity cues your body when it’s time for shut-eye.

  • Limited caffeine intake after lunch will ensure nothing between you and a restful slumber.

Managing stress during pregnancy might seem like a tall order. But remember: small changes add up to significant results over time. It's not about achieving flawlessness; it's about taking steps towards improved well-being for you and your little one.

Maintaining Adrenal Health

Pregnancy is a roller coaster of hormonal shifts that could cause stress on your adrenal glands. Hence, maintaining their health is crucial in managing gestational diabetes.

Nutrition is essential here - getting enough vitamin C, B6, magnesium, and zinc helps support adrenal health.

Stretch Marks after Pregnancy

Dealing with stretch marks after pregnancy is a common concern for many new mothers. These marks can appear on the skin due to the rapid stretching during pregnancy.

While they may fade over time, some individuals seek ways to address them more effectively. Various methods are available, including creams, oils, and natural remedies, to help reduce the appearance of stretch marks.

For those looking for solutions on how to remove stretch marks permanently at home, it's essential to explore options that work best for your skin type and consult with a dermatologist for personalized advice on achieving smoother, mark-free skin.


Gestational diabetes poses significant risks to both mothers and babies during pregnancy. Understanding its causes, such as hormonal changes, insulin resistance, and adrenal health, is crucial for prevention and management.

Preemptive measures like maintaining a healthy weight, balanced nutrition, and managing stress levels can help mitigate the risks associated with gestational diabetes. Consulting healthcare professionals for personalized guidance is essential for expecting mothers, ensuring a healthy pregnancy journey.

Moreover, addressing post-pregnancy concerns like stretch marks requires tailored approaches, including skincare routines and professional advice.

Overall, staying informed and proactive throughout the pregnancy empowers mothers to safeguard their health and their babies, fostering a safe and fulfilling experience from conception to postpartum.

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