Pregnancy guide > Your baby in pregnancy > Pregnancy health > What is gestational diabetes?

What is gestational diabetes?

Find out all you need to know about gestational diabetes and what the implications are for your pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes is a relatively uncommon condition and only affects between 2% and 14% of pregnancies. It's a form of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy, and usually disappears after you've given birth.

As with other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes develops when your body is unable to produce enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate the amount of sugar in your body. When pregnant your body has to produce extra insulin to accommodate your growing little one. However if your body is unable to meet this extra demand for insulin, your blood sugar levels could rise.

Who can develop it?

Though it's possible for gestational diabetes to affect any pregnancy, it's generally more likely to affect those in a 'higher-risk group' which could include:
  • Those with a BMI above 30 (check your BMI here)

  • Those who have had diabetes before

  • Those whose family have a history of diabetes

  • Those who have given birth to a large baby before
If you're in a 'higher-risk group' you may be given tests at your ante-natal appointments to check your blood sugar levels. Additionally, there are symptoms you can look out for, but as many of them are present in pregnancy anyway, only a test can tell for sure if you've developed the condition. Symptoms can include fatigue, excessive thirst, or blurred vision.

What are the risks?

If there is too much sugar in your blood, some of it could pass across your placenta to your baby. This may present a problem because if your baby is exposed to too much sugar while in the womb he or she could grow very large, making labour and birth more difficult. You may be required to have a caesarean section or there's a possibility your baby may be born prematurely.

Another possible complication of gestational diabetes is that if your baby has too much sugar in his or her blood, they may develop jaundice after birth and are more at risk of weight problems later on in life.

What can I do about it?

If your doctor does diagnose you with gestational diabetes, it's likely that you'll be recommended to make some changes to your diet and perhaps embark on a new exercise regime. As your blood sugar levels will need to be controlled, you'll have to cut down on sugary drinks and foods in favour of healthier choices and in some cases you may have to restrict your calorie intake.

Throughout your pregnancy your blood sugar levels will be monitored, and you may have extra ultrasound checks to make sure all is well. In rare cases you may be given extra shots of insulin to help regulate your blood sugar levels.

Generally gestational diabetes is not a serious condition and once identified can be easily monitored and cared for by your doctor. After your baby is born, your blood sugar levels should return to normal and the condition will in most cases disappear completely. You and your newborn will be checked at post-natal appointments just to be on the safe side.

Chat or Ask a Question:

If you have a question about this article or something else, visit our friendly forums & ask the AskBaby community.

Chat about what is gestational diabetes? with our friendly community...

Your Comments:

We'd love to hear your comments on this article...

Login to add your comment:

Email: Password:
Not yet a member? Join thousands of other parents and parents-to-be... Sign Up Now!
Forgot your

Hi, I'm Rachel & during my first pregnancy I was told I had Gestational Diabetes , this was identified through a Glucose Tolerance Test carried out at the hospital, I was worried about it as the nurses had advised that I would have a large baby & at each scan they would measure the babies abdomen, I thought I was going to give birth to a fat baby which scared me.
I had a scan at 36 weeks & was told a rough weight of about 8.5lbs at birth which I thought wasn't too bad. My diabetes was controlled through diet & ust cutting high carbs (the sugar type) & drinking water or low sugar drinks.
I was advised that if my blood sugar didn't become normal the midwives would want to deliver early, luckily I managed to control the blood sugar & carried to 40 weeks, although I was induced at 40 weeks as the midwives wouldn't allow me to carry further in case of baby getting larger.
Anyway I had my son with the aid of a bit of Gas& Air & a shot of pethidine.... The midwives however were way off with the predicted weight of my baby, he turned out to be 9lb 12oz & 56cm length, I had a normal 9hr labour (induced of course).
My son is now a healthy 2 & 1/2 year old at normal weight & height so it really has no bearing on the future weight of child unless you allow them to have a poor diet...
The Gestational Diabetes disappeared as soon as I had my son, although I still had to have a blood test to confirm this. I was also told that subsequent pregnancies would be at risk of the same Diabetes, Well I'm pleased to say I'm now 36 weeks pregnant with my 2nd child & there is no sign of Gestational Diabetes & the baby is growing at the correct rate & my bump is definatly smaller this time round...
I just have to go through the whole labour this time on my own with no intervention so am waiting for the contractions to start naturally & really do not know what to expect.
So moral is..... If you have diabetes with the first it doesn't necessarily mean you will have it with the 2nd.

Thanks for reading.

Rach :)
by rachiesmith1981 22nd Mar 2011, 3:22pm
Hi, Im Lorraine, im 35 weeks pregnant and at 28 weeks i was horrified to learn i had this condition. My mum is 73 and has only just recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes after losing alot of weight, shes not fat at all, and was underweight so was relieved to learn it was diabetes and nothing else more serious. I hate needles but ws shown what to do and was talked to by various people at Nottingham City hospital who were fantastic. A dietician goes over your diet (im 5 ft 8 and 12 half stone) so not overweight at all just that as mum has type 2 now, they tell me its quite normal for me to get GD. I was told i had to carry 2 "pens" with you and needles and the box of tricks (which are the monitor and the tabs that go in it) I am injecting 4 times a day and checking my sugars 7 times a day. I am like a walking collendar! My main worry is the baby being too big. Our baby (this is my first and im just 40yrs old) Her measurements are fine just that her tummy is a little bigger than it should be, so they are now saying they may induce me. They are making that decsn in 1 week. I understand from what i had read that its not unusual to have a cesarean and no matter what - all i want is my baby to be healthy. I found the needles/injections and blood sugar readings tough when socialising as you have to do this before and after a meal - so if you go for dinner with friends, trips to the loo are a must. I also forgot sometimes so put my plate down and ran up stairs to inject myself.. but you do get used to it. I cried at the thought of injections but they cant give you tablets as the baby will ingest them so you have to inject, they said. I am only a few weeks off so hope that they make a choice and all goes well. I would say its not the end of the world having this condition and i know that most times once you have given birth it usually goes away. (a small chance of type 2 later in life if you are not controlling diet or weight so keep an eye on matters) If you have this, dont worry, you learn to cope and as its for baby, you really will manage it. I will say, carry a mars bar or a lucozade with you if you go out - i find when i walk too much my sugars get low so you need to have half of the drink or half of a mars to get you up again. My first "hypo" came out of no where and i was shaking and sweaty and felt faint so went to public loo and checked sugars, sat down and finally ate the mars. It works quite quickly so give yourself a ten min break. Snack in between meals with banana or something.. to prevent the hypos, do your research and you will learn so much. Its all in a good cause afterall. Will do another post once we get news. Lots of luck to you all and keep the faith, its really not the end of the world having this condition and my heart goes out to those who have this perm. I never realised how lucky i was to be able to eat what i wanted before. I hope this helps some of you. Take care and all the best. (Lorraine and baby Isabella)
by Ellebaines 11th Aug 2010, 5:27pm
Please don't worry about it, the doctors have to tell you what can happen with GD, it is scary but really easy to mangae. It's not something you can mess around with though, you need to follow all instruction with your meds. I had insulin dependant GD and have a very health 6 month old girl. The diabetes went the second she was born. Happy to answer any questions if I can.
by boogiebella 11th Aug 2010, 5:20pm
i was diagnosed with this at 16 weeks, i am now 24 weeks and am on tablets 3 times a day and was told that i should expect to be put on insulin in the latter part of pregnancy.
by westlifeno1 11th Jun 2010, 5:25pm