Can You Reverse Gestational Diabetes?

Some people believe that gestational diabetes (GD) can be reversed even though during pregnancy. It sounds too good to be true. This diabetes is found only in pregnancy, as the name suggests. Soon after delivery, it will go away on its own. A challenging question, can you really reverse it before delivery?

First off, how does GD develop?

As well we know, glucose (sugar) is the main source of our energy – though the body can also get energy from fat and protein. Insulin, hormone produced by a gland behind the stomach called pancreas, is responsible to control your blood sugar level (the amount of glucose in the blood). If there something goes awry with your insulin, your glucose metabolism is also affected.

How does insulin work? Foods that you eat are digested by your digestive system and then the nutrients (including glucose) are absorbed into the circulation (bloodstream).

If the amount of glucose in the circulation increases, more insulin is released by the pancreas. Insulin acts like a key to open the door of the body’s cells so glucose can move from the circulation into these cells. Then glucose is converted to become energy. And excess glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles.

Without insulin, glucose will stay in the circulation and your blood sugar level increases. And high blood sugar can be a serious threat for your overall health. It is also often to blame for diabetic complications.

Diabetes occurs if the pancreas doesn’t produce adequate insulin or if cells of the body become resistant to insulin. In essence, it occurs when insulin doesn’t work properly!

How about in gestational diabetes? When you’re pregnant, your body will make a number of pregnancy hormones such as HPL (human placental lactogen), estrogen, and progesterone.

These hormones are essential to support your pregnancy and baby growth. But some can interfere with your insulin, causing insulin resistant (a condition of when cells of your body respond less well to insulin). Experts theorize that this hormonal effect is used to allow more nutrients (including glucose) for the baby development.

Since pregnancy can cause insulin resistance, the demand of insulin raises drastically up to 2-3 times higher than normal (especially in late pregnancy). If your pancreas fails to produce more insulin what the body needs, you may develop GD. Sometimes GD may also occur when cells of the body become very resistant to insulin even though insulin has been produced ‘high enough’ by the pancreas.

However the exact way of how GD affects some pregnancies are not fully known yet. Experts don’t know why some pregnant women develop it and others don’t. Nevertheless, there are some risk factors of the condition that have been successfully identified. In general, women with the following conditions have higher risk of developing GD:

  1. Being obese (BMI greater than 30) before pregnancy. Weight loss diet during pregnancy is not recommended. Therefore if you want to cut your risk of GD, lose your excessive weight before pregnant.
  2. A personal history of delivering a large baby in the previous pregnancy (greater than 4 kg or 9 pounds).
  3. A personal history of having GD. If you have had GD in your previous pregnancy, you may develop it again in your next pregnancy.
  4. If you have a family history of diabetes.
  5. Without known reason, GD is relatively more common in black women, Asian, American Indian, Middle Eastern (Black Caribbean), and Hispanic.

The bad news, GD is also a risk factor of type 2 diabetes (the most common type of diabetes mellitus). That’s why it’s still important to engage in healthy lifestyles after delivery.

So, can you reverse GD?

As noted before, GD is thought as a consequence of the increased pregnancy hormones that block the mother’s insulin (especially in late pregnancy). And you cannot remove these hormones since they are required to support the growth and development of baby.

Unfortunately, there is currently no known way to reverse GD before delivery. So what does it mean when people use the term ‘reversal’ for GD?

The term ‘reversal’ only means that you can go off the diabetic medication. In some cases, lifestyle measures are enough to control it. The main goal is to keep it under control so you can still have healthy pregnancy. And after giving birth, there are plenty of options you can do to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and prevent GD in your next pregnancy.