Diabetes (Gestational)


This form of diabetes develops during pregnancy. With it, the hormone insulin has problems helping the body turn blood glucose (commonly called blood sugar) into energy. In most cases, gestational diabetes can be controlled with no complications. It often goes away after pregnancy.

How it Develops

Gestational diabetes most commonly develops late in the pregnancy. Normally, the mother's pancreas releases insulin to control blood glucose in the mother's bloodstream. But hormones released by the placenta can disrupt this process. The mother's body becomes resistant to insulin. Glucose builds up in the bloodstream. The pancreas responds by releasing more insulin, but eventually it cannot produce enough to meet the body's needs. When this happens, the mother has gestational diabetes.

Risk Factors

Many factors raise a person's risk for gestational diabetes. It is more common in women who are overweight, and in women who have prediabetes. Mothers who have previously had gestational diabetes are at an increased risk. Women whose family members have had type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk as well. It is more common in women who have previously given birth to a large baby. It is more common in certain racial and ethnic groups, including people who are of black, Hispanic, or Asian descent. And it is more common in women who have polycystic ovary syndrome.


In most cases, gestational diabetes does not cause any noticeable symptoms for the mother. It is important for pregnant women to maintain regular checkups so that a doctor can look for signs.


Without proper management, gestational diabetes can lead to complications. For the baby, it can lead to an excessive birth weight, a premature delivery and respiratory problems. The baby may have low blood glucose at birth, and jaundice. The baby will have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. For the mother, complications may include high blood pressure and a condition called preecalmpsia. The mother will also have a higher risk for developing gestational diabetes or type 2 diabetes in the future.


Gestational diabetes can be managed with healthy eating, regular exercise and careful glucose monitoring. A doctor may prescribe medications and insulin therapy to help stabilize blood glucose levels.