What Is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a condition that occurs in pregnant women and is characterized by blood sugar (glucose) that is too high (hyperglycemia) during pregnancy.

Are you at risk for gestational diabetes?

While any pregnant woman can develop gestational diabetes, the following factors may put you at higher risk:

  • overweight
  • family history of diabetes
  • Hispanic/Latino American, African American, and American Indian
  • gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy
  • previously delivered a baby weighing over 9 pounds.

How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?

Only a blood test can determine if you have gestational diabetes. If you have never had gestational diabetes before, you will likely be tested between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy with an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). If you have had gestational diabetes during an prior pregnancy, you should be tested when you see your healthcare provider for the first time about your new pregnancy.

How can gestational diabetes can affect you—and your baby?

If you have gestational diabetes, you have too much sugar in your blood. Overly high blood sugar levels are unhealthy for both you and your baby.

Risks to your baby include:

  • injury during delivery due to a larger birth size
  • blood sugar level that is too low (hypoglycemia) at birth due to increased insulin levels
  • jaundice, a yellowing of the skin due to an increased level of bilirubin
  • breathing problems due to early birth and underdeveloped lungs

Your risks include:

  • difficult labor, due to delivering a larger baby, and may require a cesarean delivery
  • increased risk of urinary tract infections and vaginal yeast infections
  • preeclampsia, a serious complication causing high blood pressure and high amounts of protein in the urine
  • continuing to have diabetes after the baby is born
  • developing type 2 diabetes later in life

How is gestational diabetes treated?

Gestational diabetes should be treated immediately. The goal is to keep your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible so that you can have a healthy pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. You should carefully follow the treatment plan designed by your healthcare team.  Ways that you can help keep your blood sugar levels in a healthy range:

  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet as directed by your healthcare providers.
  • Test your blood sugar as directed by your healthcare providers.
  • Get a moderate amount of safe exercise, such as walking, swimming, and prenatal stretching exercises as directed by your healthcare providers.