Gestational diabetes (2022)

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that starts during pregnancy. If you have gestational diabetes, your body can’t use sugar (glucose) properly. This leads to higher than normal levels of sugar in the blood, which can be unhealthy for both you and the baby.

As gestational diabetes is a condition that occurs during pregnancy, it is not the same as having pre-existing diabetes during your pregnancy.

1 in every 8 women in Australia develops gestational diabetes, usually around week 24 to week 28 of pregnancy, although it can happen earlier.

What are the symptoms of gestational diabetes?

Typically, women with gestational diabetes have no symptoms. Most women are diagnosed after routine tests during pregnancy.

What causes gestational diabetes?

When you are pregnant, your placenta produces hormones to help the baby grow. These hormones also block the action of insulin in your body (called insulin resistance). Women need 2 to 3 times more insulin when they are pregnant.

If you already have insulin resistance, your body may not be able to cope with this extra demand for insulin. That will lead to blood glucose levels being too high.

You are at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes if you:

(Video) What is Gestational Diabetes?

  • are above the healthy weight range or gaining too much weight in the first half of pregnancy
  • are over the age of 35 years
  • have a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • come from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander or some Asian backgrounds
  • have had gestational diabetes before
  • have had polycystic ovary syndrome
  • have had a large baby before
  • are taking some types of anti-psychotic or steroid medications

How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?

All women are tested for gestational diabetes, usually at 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. If you are at higher risk, you may be tested earlier.

The test for gestational diabetes is called an ‘oral glucose tolerance test’ (OGTT). You need to fast for 10 hours (generally overnight, missing breakfast). A blood test is taken, followed by a 75g glucose drink and further blood tests at 1 and 2 hours later. You will be required to remain at the laboratory for the 2-hour test.

How is gestational diabetes managed?

If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it’s important to follow your doctor’s advice. Managing the condition and keeping your blood glucose levels under control helps avoid complications for both you and your baby.

You may be referred to an obstetrician and dietitian and may need more frequent antenatal appointments and regular monitoring of your blood sugar levels.

Monitoring your blood glucose levels

Your medical team will give you a target range for your blood glucose levels. You will need to check these at home while you are pregnant.

You can purchase a blood glucose measuring kit from your local pharmacy or diabetes centre, or from Diabetes Australia in your state or territory — call 1800 637 700 for help.

To test your blood glucose levels, you prick your finger with a lancet and put a small drop of blood onto a testing strip. Then you insert the strip into a meter, which reads your blood glucose level.

(Video) Gestational Diabetes: Diagnosis and Treatment

A healthy diet

Following a healthy eating plan is important in managing gestational diabetes. Eat small amounts often and try not to put on too much weight. A healthy diet for women with gestational diabetes includes:

  • a carbohydrate with every meal and snack (spread your carbohydrate intake over 3 small meals and 2 to 3 snacks each day)
  • a variety of foods that contain the nutrients you need during pregnancy
  • high-fibre foods
  • avoiding foods and drinks that contain a lot of sugar
  • limiting fat, especially saturated fats

For more information on a healthy diet during gestational diabetes, download Diabetes Australia’s booklet Gestational Diabetes: Caring for yourself and your baby.

Exercise

Moderate intensity physical activity — physical activity that raises your breathing or heart rate — can help you manage your blood glucose levels and reduces insulin resistance.

The best form of exercise if you have gestational diabetes is to build walking into your daily routine. Always check with your doctor first before you start exercising while you are pregnant.

Medication

If your blood sugar levels remain high despite changes to your diet and an exercise regime, you may need medication to lower your blood sugar levels.

Both insulin injections and metformin pills have been shown to be safe for the unborn baby. If you already have diabetes when you become pregnant, discuss with your doctor whether you will need to change any of your medicines.

If you are worried about taking medicines while you are pregnant, discuss the risks with your doctor. Remember, the risks of not treating your gestational diabetes could be much higher for both you and your baby.

(Video) Prisma Health Birthplace - Gestational Diabetes

Labour and birth

If you have diabetes, it's strongly recommended that you give birth with the support of a consultant-led maternity team in a hospital.

Read more about where you can give birth, including in hospital.

After the birth

Your baby will need special monitoring after the birth since their blood glucose levels may be too low for a while. To check, they will have a heel prick blood test 2 to 4 hours after the birth. Feed your baby as soon as possible after the birth (within 30 minutes) to help keep your baby's blood glucose at a safe level.

If your baby's blood glucose can't be kept at a safe level, they may need extra care. Your baby may be given a drip to increase their blood glucose.

Read more about special care for babies.

If you had gestational diabetes, you can stop all treatment after the birth. You should be offered a test to check your blood glucose levels before you go home and at your 6-week postnatal check. You should also be given advice on diet and exercise.

You should also have regular tests for type 2 diabetes every year if you are planning another pregnancy or if you’re not feeling well. If you are not planning another pregnancy, you should have a test every 3 years.

(Video) Lower Glycemic Criteria for Gestational Diabetes Diagnosis | NEJM

Breastfeeding is recommended for women who have had gestational diabetes because it helps to regulate both your weight and the weight of your baby.

Can gestational diabetes be prevented?

Gestational diabetes often can’t be prevented. But you can reduce your risk by being a healthy weight. If you are overweight before you fall pregnant, it is a good idea to try to lose some weight first.

If you are already pregnant and you are overweight, don’t try to lose weight now. But it’s important to keep your weight gain within a healthy range. Your doctor can help you with this. Avoiding too much weight gain in the first two trimesters is a great way of preventing gestational diabetes.

If you have had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, you’re at higher risk of developing it again. Your doctor may do an oral glucose tolerance test at around 12 to 16 weeks to check your blood glucose levels, and then again at around 26 weeks.

What are the complications of gestational diabetes?

If your blood sugar levels remain high during your pregnancy, this may lead to pregnancy problems such as a large baby, miscarriage or stillbirth. Having a large baby can lead to complications and injury during the birth, and increase the chances of having intervention in labour such as a caesarean birth. But the baby will not be born with diabetes.

If you have gestational diabetes, you are at higher risk of developing high blood pressure while you are pregnant and a 50% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. Your baby is also at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes in later life.

To reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes:

(Video) High Risk Pregnancy: Diabetes

  • keep to a healthy weight
  • eat a healthy diet
  • be physically active
  • check your blood glucose levels

You can also call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak to a maternal child health nurse for advice and support.

FAQs

Is gestational diabetes high risk pregnancy? ›

Women who develop diabetes during pregnancy, known as gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), may need high-risk pregnancy care due to complications that can arise during pregnancy and childbirth. Women with GDM have an increased risk of preeclampsia, a condition that leads to pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.

Can you get rid of gestational diabetes while pregnant? ›

Unlike other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes usually goes away on its own and soon after delivery blood sugar levels return to normal, says Dr. Tania Esakoff, clinical director of the Prenatal Diagnosis Center. "There is no need for gestational diabetes to take away from the joys of pregnancy."

What does it mean if you have gestational diabetes? ›

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. Diabetes means your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Too much glucose in your blood is not good for you or your baby. Gestational diabetes is usually diagnosed in the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy.

Who is at high risk for gestational diabetes? ›

Gestational diabetes can develop in any woman who is pregnant. But women over the age of 25 who are of African, Asian, Hispanic, Native American or Pacific Island descent are at a higher risk. Other factors that may increase your chances of GD include: Heart disease.

What should I avoid eating with gestational diabetes? ›

Recommendations
  • Plenty of whole fruits and vegetables.
  • Moderate amounts of lean proteins and healthy fats.
  • Moderate amounts of whole grains, such as bread, cereal, pasta, and rice, plus starchy vegetables, such as corn and peas.
  • Fewer foods that have a lot of sugar, such as soft drinks, fruit juices, and pastries.
Apr 14, 2021

Should I be worried if I have gestational diabetes? ›

Gestational diabetes that's not carefully managed can lead to high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar can cause problems for you and your baby, including an increased likelihood of needing a surgery to deliver (C-section).

Does eating sugar cause gestational diabetes? ›

Eating sugary foods will not increase your risk for gestational diabetes. If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes it will be important to manage your carbohydrate intake to best manage your blood sugar levels. This would include managing your intake of sugary foods.

What can I eat for breakfast if I have gestational diabetes? ›

Breakfast tips
  • Eat a small breakfast.
  • Eat whole-grain bread products.
  • Eat a food that has protein.
  • Do not eat cereal or fruit.
  • Do not drink fruit juice at breakfast or any other time of the day. Fruit juice raises your blood glucose very quickly.

Does stress cause gestational diabetes? ›

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) pregnant women are under more psychological stress than normal pregnant women. With the deepening of the study of gestational diabetes mellitus, research has shown that anxiety and depression are also an important cause of gestational diabetes mellitus.

What is the main cause of gestational diabetes? ›

What Causes Gestational Diabetes? Gestational diabetes occurs when your body can't make enough insulin during your pregnancy. Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas that acts like a key to let blood sugar into the cells in your body for use as energy.

When will I give birth if I have gestational diabetes? ›

The ideal time to give birth if you have gestational diabetes is usually around weeks 38 to 40. If your blood sugar is within normal levels and there are no concerns about your or your baby's health, you may be able to wait for labour to start naturally.

At what point in pregnancy does gestational diabetes develop? ›

Gestational diabetes usually does not occur until later in pregnancy, when the placenta is producing more of the hormones that interfere with the mother's insulin. Screening for gestational diabetes usually takes place between weeks 24 to 28, but women at high risk are likely to be screened in the first trimester.

What does diabetes in pregnancy feel like? ›

Gestational diabetes does not usually cause any symptoms. Most cases are only discovered when your blood sugar levels are tested during screening for gestational diabetes. Some women may develop symptoms if their blood sugar levels gets too high (hyperglycaemia), such as: increased thirst.

What should I do if I have gestational diabetes? ›

Treatment for gestational diabetes aims to keep blood glucose levels equal to those of pregnant women who don't have gestational diabetes. The treatment always includes special meal plans and scheduled physical activity, and it may also include daily blood glucose testing and insulin injections.

What are the signs of being diabetic during pregnancy? ›

According to Harvard Health, signs and symptoms associated with gestational diabetes include:
  • Increased, frequent urination.
  • Increased thirst.
  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Weight loss even with increased appetite.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Yeast infections.

Are bananas good for gestational diabetes? ›

Fruits like bananas are healthy foods that contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You can include bananas in your diet even if you have diabetes.

How can I lower my gestational diabetes naturally? ›

Dietary Recommendations
  1. Distribute your foods between three meals and two or three snacks each day. ...
  2. Eat reasonable portions of starch. ...
  3. Drink one cup of milk at a time. ...
  4. Limit fruit portions. ...
  5. Breakfast matters. ...
  6. Avoid fruit juice. ...
  7. Strictly limit sweets and desserts. ...
  8. Stay away from added sugars.

Can I go full term with gestational diabetes? ›

You should be able to. Having gestational diabetes (GD) doesn't necessarily mean that you can't have your baby vaginally. You've got a better chance of having a birth without any interventions, such as induction or caesarean section, if you can keep your blood sugar levels stable during pregnancy.

What happens if you test positive for gestational diabetes? ›

If diet and exercise aren't enough to manage your blood sugar levels, you may need insulin injections to lower your blood sugar. A small number of women with gestational diabetes need insulin to reach their blood sugar goals. Some health care providers prescribe an oral medication to manage blood sugar levels.

Does a big baby mean gestational diabetes? ›

“Women with gestational diabetes can face an up to 50 per cent increased risk of having a large baby*, which comes with risks of possible complications such as injury to the baby and mother during delivery, emergency or planned caesarean delivery, and haemorrhage,” Dr Vally said.

Can eating too much fruit cause gestational diabetes? ›

Excessive fruit consumption during the second trimester is associated with increased likelihood of gestational diabetes mellitus: a prospective study.

Does gestational diabetes cause autism in baby? ›

A mom's diabetes may increase the risk of her child developing neurological disorders such as autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit disorder. Woman who are considering becoming pregnant should see their doctors even before pregnancy, if possible, to help ensure their babies are as healthy.

What foods should pregnant avoid? ›

During pregnancy, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourages you to avoid: Bigeye tuna. King mackerel. Marlin.
...
Avoid undercooked meat, poultry and eggs
  • Fully cook all meats and poultry before eating. ...
  • Cook hot dogs and luncheon meats until they're steaming hot — or avoid them completely.

Can I eat cheese with gestational diabetes? ›

Foods that don't raise your blood sugar

Including protein at each meal and snack helps you stay full and keeps your blood sugar stable: 1 oz of cheese.

Can I have coffee with gestational diabetes? ›

Can I drink coffee with gestational diabetes? Yes, you can.

Does walking help gestational diabetes? ›

Activities such as walking, prenatal aerobics class, or swimming can help control blood sugar levels.

Do you gain weight faster with gestational diabetes? ›

02) control women but not in overweight controls or in any patients with gestational diabetes. Conclusion: Weight gain in women with gestational diabetes is less than in control patients, primarily because of greater pregravid weight, and does not correlate with neonatal birth weight.

Does having gestational diabetes make you tired? ›

Another core symptom of gestational diabetes is extreme fatigue. You may also feel constantly tired, even if you get enough sleep, eat well, and do ample amounts of exercise.

Can lack of sleep cause high blood sugar? ›

A: Yes. Multiple studies have shown that repeated awakenings during the night, insufficient sleep, excessive sleep, and irregular sleep all promote glucose intolerance. Furthermore, if a person has prediabetes or diabetes, poor sleep will worsen the condition.

What is considered high-risk pregnancy? ›

A high-risk pregnancy is one in which a woman and her fetus face a higher-than-normal chance of experiencing problems. These risks may be due to factors in the pregnancy itself, or they may stem from preexisting maternal medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, or lupus.

When will I give birth if I have gestational diabetes? ›

The ideal time to give birth if you have gestational diabetes is usually around weeks 38 to 40. If your blood sugar is within normal levels and there are no concerns about your or your baby's health, you may be able to wait for labour to start naturally.

Do you have to deliver early with gestational diabetes? ›

In general, waiting at least until 38 completed weeks' gestation improves fetal outcome, especially in diabetic patients [13]. However, if an indication for early delivery exists, GDM should not be considered as a contraindication to proceed with interventions for early delivery.

What harm can gestational diabetes do to my baby? ›

This can lead to macrosomia, or a "fat" baby. Babies with macrosomia face health problems of their own, including damage to their shoulders during birth. Because of the extra insulin made by the baby's pancreas, newborns may have very low blood glucose levels at birth and are also at higher risk for breathing problems.

What are the 10 danger signs of pregnancy? ›

Fever. Abdominal pain. Feels ill. Swelling of fingers, face and legs.
...
DANGER SIGNS DURING PREGNANCY
  • vaginal bleeding.
  • convulsions/fits.
  • severe headaches with blurred vision.
  • fever and too weak to get out of bed.
  • severe abdominal pain.
  • fast or difficult breathing.

What is the best age to have kids? ›

Experts say the best time to get pregnant is between your late 20s and early 30s. This age range is associated with the best outcomes for both you and your baby. One study pinpointed the ideal age to give birth to a first child as 30.5. Your age is just one factor that should go into your decision to get pregnant.

What is gestational diabetes caused by? ›

What Causes Gestational Diabetes? Gestational diabetes occurs when your body can't make enough insulin during your pregnancy. Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas that acts like a key to let blood sugar into the cells in your body for use as energy.

Can you go full term with gestational diabetes? ›

Most women who have gestational diabetes have a full-term pregnancy that lasts between 39 and 40 weeks. However, if there are complications, your health care provider may need to induce labor before your due date.

How long do you stay in hospital after birth with gestational diabetes? ›

Your baby's blood sugar level will be checked regularly to help stop it from going too low. You and your baby will have to stay in hospital for at least 24 hours before you can go home. This is because your healthcare team will need to make sure that your baby's sugar levels are ok and that they are feeding well.

Does stress cause gestational diabetes? ›

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) pregnant women are under more psychological stress than normal pregnant women. With the deepening of the study of gestational diabetes mellitus, research has shown that anxiety and depression are also an important cause of gestational diabetes mellitus.

Does gestational diabetes lead to C-section? ›

A woman who has diabetes that is not well controlled has a higher chance of needing a C-section to deliver the baby. When the baby is delivered by a C-section, it takes longer for the woman to recover from childbirth.

How do you feel when you have gestational diabetes? ›

Most women with gestational diabetes have no symptoms, though a few may experience: Unusual thirst. Frequent urination in large amounts (distinguished from the also frequent but usually light urination of early pregnancy) Fatigue (which may be difficult to differentiate from normal pregnancy fatigue)

Will I have more ultrasounds with gestational diabetes? ›

“Having gestational diabetes means more frequent appointments for non-stress testing, and we recommend you do fetal kick counts at home to make sure your baby is moving normally,” Elizabeth said. “You will also need detailed ultrasounds to monitor fetal growth and check for birth defects.”

Does gestational diabetes cause autism in baby? ›

A mom's diabetes may increase the risk of her child developing neurological disorders such as autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit disorder. Woman who are considering becoming pregnant should see their doctors even before pregnancy, if possible, to help ensure their babies are as healthy.

How can I lower my blood sugar during pregnancy? ›

Sweets and desserts should be avoided as they may lead to high blood sugar levels.
  1. Eat 3 meals and 2–3 snacks per day. ...
  2. Measure your servings of starchy foods. ...
  3. One 8-ounce cup of milk at a time. ...
  4. One small portion of fruit at a time. ...
  5. Eat more fiber. ...
  6. Breakfast Matters. ...
  7. Avoid fruit juice and sugary drinks.

Can you have a small baby with gestational diabetes? ›

But, in rare cases, if gestational diabetes comes on early and is not controlled, placental issues can lead to a smaller-than-average baby and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR).

Videos

1. Gestational Diabetes in Pregnancy: Diagnosis, Treatment, and New Technology | Mass General Brigham
(Mass General Brigham)
2. Gestational Diabetes Mellitus in Asian Subpopulations
(Stanford Health Care)
3. What Causes Gestational Diabetes in Pregnancy with Dr. Roman Starikov | San Diego Health
(Scripps Health)
4. Gestational Diabetes Webinar
(Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC))
5. Gestational Diabetes Class
(Parkland Health)
6. Gestational Diabetes - Overview, signs and symptoms, pathophysiology, diagnosis, treatment
(Armando Hasudungan)

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