What My Mother Called “Temporary Diabetes”

It’s time for another blog post from The Plastics! I’m Anna, and after this week’s class, my interest in diabetes has sky-rocketed. After this week, I have been non-stop discussing insulin and leptin, to not only roommates and friends, but also to my parents. The reason being, both type one and type two diabetes run in my family. When discussing with my mom about it, who has type two diabetes on her side of the family, she was not shocked by some of the things I was saying. Until she told me something that did confuse me…

My mother currently does not have diabetes, however, she was telling me that during 3 of her 5 pregnancies, she became “temporarily diabetic”. Her saying this, at first, shocked me. High amounts of estrogen would assist in preventing insulin resistance. After curiousness won me over, I decided to better research the relationship between insulin and estrogen.

We know that Estrogen acts on beta cells to increase insulin production and help prevent apoptosis (cell death). However, during pregnancy, to simply but it, there are abnormal increases in estrogen or stimulation with estrogen-mimics, which can actually provoke insulin resistance by exhausting beta-cells through overstimulation.

Let’s get into some details. Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is any degree of glucose intolerance with onset during pregnancy. Normal pregnancies are usually accompanied with some insulin resistance, usually notices around mid-pregnancy (3rd trimester). The reason this happens, is seen as a combination as increased maternal adiposity and the insulin-desensitization effects of hormonal products of the placenta.

Going back to what I said earlier, the beta cells in the pancreas releases more insulin to compensate for the insulin resistance. Conclusively, all the changes in circulating glucose levels, seem to be pretty stable throughout pregnancies, while insulin sensitivity changes throughout the 9 months of pregnancy. When all this does not happen perfectly, GDM can happen, which is a form of hyperglycemia that happens when the insulin supply is not adequate in meeting the demands for normal blood glucose regulation. GDM is more closely related to women who are obese, something my mom would have been considered, since many of her pregnancies were back-to-back. According to the studies I read, my mother would be more susceptible to type two diabetes after her pregnancy, luckily she does not have diabetes.

This graph shows the normal and GDM effects on insulin sensitivity throughout pregnancy.

Something to keep in mind as I get older and the idea of kids gets progressively more-less-likely.