March of Dimes
 

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a kind of diabetes that can happen during pregnancy. Out of every 100 pregnant women, about 4 develop gestational diabetes. Like other kinds of diabetes, gestational diabetes is a condition in which your body has trouble managing the levels of blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is your body's main source of fuel.

Diabetes raises your blood sugar level. This can create serious health problems for you and your baby.

If gestational diabetes is left untreated, the baby faces an increased risk of:

Oversized babies can be injured during vaginal delivery. Often, they must be delivered by c-section to avoid this risk. After birth, the baby may have breathing problems, low blood sugar and jaundice. Fortunately, gestational diabetes can be treated and controlled to protect both mother and baby.

Risk Factors
You may be at increased risk for gestational diabetes if:

  • You are 30 years of age or older.
  • You are overweight or have gained a lot of weight during pregnancy.
  • You have one or more family members with diabetes.
  • You are of African-American, Native American, Asian, Hispanic or Pacific Island ancestry. These ethnic groups have higher rates of diabetes than other groups.
  • You had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy.
  • In your last pregnancy, you gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 1/2 pounds or was stillborn.

But even women without any of these risk factors can develop gestational diabetes. For this reason, health care providers screen most pregnant women for diabetes. 

What You Need to Know
Most women are screened for gestational diabetes between your 24th and 28th week of pregnancy, or earlier if you are at risk.

If you have gestational diabetes, a special diet and exercise may be enough to control your blood sugar levels. Women with gestational diabetes should check their blood sugar several times a day. You can do this with a special finger-stick device. Some women with gestational diabetes get oral medication or insulin injections.
 
Gestational diabetes usually goes away after delivery. But women who have gestational diabetes are at high risk of having it again in another pregnancy. They also have an increased risk of developing diabetes later in life. Exercise, a low-sugar diet and losing weight may reduce the risk of diabetes later in life.

November 2008

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© 2014 March of Dimes Foundation. All rights reserved. The March of Dimes is a not-for-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3). Our mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality.