Gestational Diabetes

Institutes & Services > Diabetes

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Pregnant women who did not have diabetes before they became pregnant, but who have high blood sugars during pregnancy, have gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is like type 2 diabetes- the pancreas does not make enough insulin and/or the cells are less responsive to the insulin that is made (insulin resistance). As a result, high blood sugar develops. High sugar levels can cause problems for the unborn baby. About 2% to 5% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes. Testing for gestational diabetes is done between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy. Women with gestational diabetes have a three to seven times higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes within five to 10 years. Your baby also has a greater risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

Risk Factors

You have higher chance of getting gestational diabetes if you have a family history of diabetes and/or also have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • You are obese (body mass index (BMI) greater than 30).
  • You had a prior pregnancy with gestational diabetes.
  • You are pregnant at an older age
  • Previous baby weighed more than 9 lbs.
  • History of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

If blood sugar levels are kept in the normal range during pregnancy, women can have a healthy pregnancy. If your blood sugar levels are not well controlled, there may be risks to you, your unborn baby, your labor and delivery, or your newborn baby. The good news is that 70-85% of women with gestational diabetes are able to control it with lifestyle changes alone.

Current guidelines from the American Diabetes Association recommend that women with gestational diabetes have blood sugar testing done 4 to 12 weeks after the baby is born and every one to three years thereafter depending on risk factors.

All women with a history of gestational diabetes should exercise, eat healthy and work toward a normal body weight to prevent type 2 diabetes.

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