What Is Gestational Diabetes?

gestational-diabetes-pregnancy-diet-nutritionThe gestational diabetes test is a rite-of-passage into third trimester pregnancy. Want to know why some women get gestational diabetes and others don’t, often regardless of your weight or eating habits? Want to really, truly understand insulin? Read this quick post before moving to What to Eat Before Your Blood Glucose Test.

Glucose is another word for sugar in our bodies (a.k.a. blood sugar), and our cells need sugar for survival. So…license to snack on sugar cubes? Nope. Our amazing bodies already have large sugar stores waiting to be used, and our bodies can break down any food (fat, protein or carbohydrates) into glucose to feed itself.

You’ve probably heard the term ‘insulin.’ Where does that fit in?

So you don’t fall asleep from boredom, let’s use a fun movie theater analogy. You and I, and everyone waiting in the theater lobby, are sugar molecules. All of us need tickets to get into the movie. The ticket is insulin. No ticket? No movie. No exceptions.

Around the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, pregnancy hormones make us all a little resistant to insulin. Now, the ticket-taker is demanding three tickets for pregnant women to see the movie.

Women whose pancreases are cooperating (i.e. those without gestational diabetes) will get plenty of extra tickets – more than they need – and will easily be admitted into the movie. Medically, the sugar molecules enter the cells and leave the bloodstream. So your blood sugar/glucose test comes back normal, since there’s no build-up of angry movie-goers in the lobby.

gestational-diabetes-pregnancy-nutrition-dietWomen whose pancreases are NOT cooperating (those with gestational diabetes) will be limited to just one ticket. And thus denied entry. Naturally, there is a build-up of angry people (sugar molecules) in the lobby. Medically, this blood sugar test comes back high because of the backup of sugar in the blood. The people aren’t getting into the movie. The sugar molecules aren’t getting into the cells. This is gestational diabetes. Unfortunately, complications can arise when babies live in a sugary environment during the 3rd trimester.

Why does someone get extra tickets, while someone else gets none? It’s largely genetic and can also be influenced by lifestyle. Being overweight, sedentary and having poor eating habits increases your likelihood of gestational diabetes if you also have the genetic link. This explains why you might get it (gee thanks, mom & dad) and your junk-food-loving friend may be in the clear.

Did my analogy help? No? Then this video by the American Diabetes Association may help.

Now…what should you eat before the test? And, more importantly, what should you not eat? Read on. 

May 11, 2016

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