• Gestational Diabetes

    Also referred to as GDM, Gestational Onset Diabetes Mellitus (GODM) and Glucose Intolerance During Pregnancy)

    What is gestational diabetes?

    Diabetes occurs when there is a higher level of glucose in the blood than is normal. Glucose comes from the breakdown of the food you eat. It travels through your body in the blood.

    A hormone called insulin then helps glucose move from your blood to your cells. Once glucose is in your cells, it can be used for energy.

    A problem making or using insulin means glucose cannot move into your cells. Instead, the glucose builds up in your blood. The build-up is called hyperglycemia.

    Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs or is first recognized during pregnancy. The extra glucose can affect the mother and the baby.

    Large Baby Due to Gestational Diabetes IMAGE Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Causes of gestational diabetes

    Gestational diabetes is caused by reduced sensitivity to insulin during pregnancy.

    Risk factors for gestational diabetes

    Gestational diabetes is more common in women who are 25 years and older. It is also more common in women of Hispanic, African-American, Native-American, Asian-American, Indigenous Australian, or a Pacific Islander descent.

    Factors that may increase the risk of gestational diabetes include:

    • Obesity or being overweight—This can affect the body's ability to use insulin.
    • Gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
    • Family history of type 2 diabetes
    • Previous delivery of a large baby
    • Sleep-disordered breathing—abnormal breathing during sleep ranging from snoring to sleep apnea
    • History of polycystic ovary syndrome
    • Previous stillbirth or too much fluid surrounding a baby during pregnancy
    • Multiple pregnancy—carrying 2 or more babies

    Also, hormones that help the baby's growth may interfere with insulin.

    Gestational diabetes symptoms

    This condition usually does not cause any symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may include:

    Diagnosing gestational diabetes

    As part of prenatal screening, you will be tested for gestational diabetes. If you don't have a history of diabetes, the test will be done at 24-28 weeks of gestation. If you have any risk factors, the test may be done earlier in pregnancy. You will be given a drink that has a special glucose solution in it. The level of glucose in your blood will be measured. Other tests may be used that require fasting (not eating or drinking anything). If you are high risk for gestational diabetes or have symptoms, you will be tested earlier in the pregnancy.

    Gestational diabetes treatment

    The goal of treatment is to return blood glucose levels to normal. Treatment may include:


    A dietitian can help you develop a healthy meal plan. Guidelines include:

    • Eat a balanced diet. Do not skip meals.
    • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and high fiber foods.
    • Limit the amount of fat you eat.
    • Avoid foods high in sugar such as soda, candy, and cookies.
    • Manage your portion sizes at each meal.
    • Plan a bedtime snack each night. It should include protein and complex carbohydrates such as legumes, potatoes, corn, or rice.
    • Keep a record of your food intake. Share this information with your doctor.

    Do not gain more weight during pregnancy than your doctor advises. Excess weight can increase complications in your pregnancy. It will also make it more difficult to control your diabetes.


    Physical activity can make it easier for your body to use glucose. There are some precautions you may need to take or certain exercises you may need to avoid. Ask your doctor about an exercise plan.

    Blood Sugar Testing

    A blood glucose monitor will help you check your glucose levels throughout the day. Knowing your glucose level will help you plan your meals, activities, and medication. Keep a record of your results. Discuss them with your doctor at your visits.


    You may need to give yourself insulin injections to control diabetes. For some pregnant women, oral medication is recommended.

    After delivery, glucose levels usually return to normal. Your glucose levels will be checked to make sure that you no longer have diabetes.

    Preventing gestational diabetes

    The following may help prevent gestational diabetes:

    • Do not gain more weight than recommended during pregnancy.
    • Eat a healthy diet.
    • Exercise regularly. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.
    • Talk to your doctor about whether you should take probiotics to reduce your risk of gestational diabetes.
    • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit.


    American Diabetes Association – www.diabetes.org

    The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – www.acog.org


    Gestational diabetes. ACOG practice bulletin No. 30. Obstet Gynecol. 2001;98:525-538.

    Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116237/Gestational-diabetes-mellitus-GDM. Updated July 7, 2016. Accessed September 28, 2016.

    Hillier TA, Pedula KL, Vesco KK, et al. Excess gestational weight gain: modifying fetal macrosomia risk associated with maternal glucose. Obstet Gynecol. 2008;112:1007-1014.

    How to treat gestational diabetes. American Diabetes Association website. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/gestational/how-to-treat-gestational.html. Updated April 29, 2014. Accessed October 7, 2015.

    2/5/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116237/Gestational-diabetes-mellitus-GDM: Cheng YW, Chung JH, Kurbisch-Block I, Inturrisi M, Shafer S, Caughey AB. Gestational weight gain and gestational diabetes mellitus: perinatal outcomes. Obstet Gynecol. 2008;112:1015-1022.

    4/1/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116237/Gestational-diabetes-mellitus-GDM: Dhulkotia JS, Ola B, Fraser R, Farrell T. Oral hypoglycemic agents vs insulin in management of gestational diabetes: a systematic review and metaanalysis. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2010;203(5):457.e1-9.

    3/17/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116237/Gestational-diabetes-mellitus-GDM: Luoto R, Laitinen K, et al. Impact of material probiotic-supplemented dietary counselling on pregnancy outcome and prenatal and postnatal growth: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Br J Nutr. 2010. Jun;103(12):1792-1799.

    6/9/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116237/Gestational-diabetes-mellitus-GDM: Qin JZ, Pang LH, et al. Obstetric complications in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2013;11:56

    10/13/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116237/Gestational-diabetes-mellitus-GDM: Zhang C, Tobias DK, et al. Adherence to healthy lifestyle and risk of gestational diabetes mellitus: prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2014 Sep 30;349.

    Revision Information

    This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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