Gestational diabetes is diabetes that a woman develops during pregnancy. Out of every 100 pregnant women in the United States, three to eight develop gestational diabetes. Fortunately, with the right tools, gestational diabetes can be treated and/or prevented.

Here are seven things you should know about gestational diabetes:

  1. Diabetes occurs when you have elevated blood sugar, or glucose. In diabetes, your body cannot use the sugar and carbohydrates it takes in as food to make energy. As a result, the extra glucose accumulates in your blood, causing damage to small vessels throughout the body, including in the kidneys, extremities, and sensitive organs, like eyes.
  2. Being overweight before or during pregnancy, or having diabetes in the family, may increase your risk of developing gestational diabetes.
  3. Gestational diabetes can be controlled. Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly can keep your glucose levels under control. Some women with gestational diabetes may have to take diabetic pills or insulin, or both.
  4. Gestational diabetes that is not controlled can cause your baby to grow very large, weighing more than nine pounds, which can lead to problems during delivery.
  5. Women with gestational diabetes also can develop preeclampsia. Symptoms of preeclampsia include high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and possibly swollen feet, legs, fingers, and hands. Preeclampsia can even cause seizures or a stroke.
  6. Gestational diabetes may put your baby at risk for becoming overweight or obese during childhood or adolescence, which in turn can lead to type 2 diabetes.
  7. Many women who have gestational diabetes may develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Therefore, controlling your weight gain during pregnancy is very important.

Eating healthy and staying active during pregnancy are two of the most important ways to control blood sugar and treat gestational diabetes. Consume lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid soda, fruit juice, punch, lemonade, and sweetened iced tea to prevent excessive weight gain. Exercising can also help keep your glucose levels under control. However, consult with your physician prior to beginning any exercise regime. And remember: if you do develop gestational diabetes, it can be controlled.


  • Gestational diabetes is diabetes that occurs during pregnancy.
  • It can be caused by excessive weight gain and poor diet. A family history of diabetes increases your risk of developing gestational diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes can lead to complications with both the pregnancy and delivery.
  • Gestational diabetes can be successfully controlled.

Last reviewed by Jennifer Lincoln, MD, IBCLC. Review Date: January 2019


  1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes and Pregnancy.
  2. National Institutes of Health. What I need to know about Gestational Diabetes.


  1. I have Type 1 Diabetes, so I did not have to take the glucose test during pregnancy (yay for not having to drink that mess!). I have heard of women trying to ensure they pass their glucose test (usually the 3-hour test if they failed the 1-hour test) by eating either really well leading up to the test (which is perfectly fine as long as the change in diet continues after the test) or by eating lots of carbs and sugars days before the test to “condition” their bodies to the higher sugar levels. If women really do try the second method, they are certainly hurting themselves and their babies. If you do have gestational diabetes, you should do whatever possible to discover (not try to fake out the test) and control it, even if that involves insulin shots. I take at least 5 shots a day…it’s really not that bad compared to the damage that you could do by allowing blood sugars to run high throughout your pregnancy.

    Also, it seems to me like doctors perform the glucose tests pretty late in pregnancy. Does gestational diabetes not usually present itself sooner? Is there a reason they do the test so late (or it seems late to me…past the halfway mark anyway)? I would think you would want to control blood sugars ASAP versus just toward the end, but maybe it’s not detectable any sooner.

      1. That makes sense now as to why the test is done so late. 🙂 I was just curious because my blood sugars were instantly affected…like even before I knew I was pregnant!


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