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What is gestational diabetes?
People with gestational diabetes have no history of type 1 or type 2 diabetes. People who are pregnant may develop gestational diabetes if their body does not produce enough insulin, leading to high blood sugar (glucose) levels. Anyone can develop gestational diabetes. (Learn about pregnancy for people with diabetes)
The body makes insulin, a hormone that decreases the level of sugar in the blood. When you become pregnant, your body undergoes weight and hormone changes. If your body cannot produce enough insulin to adjust for these changes, your glucose levels will become too high, which is considered gestational diabetes. High blood sugar during pregnancy can result in health problems for both you and your baby1. Good health care and self-care before and during pregnancy can help prevent those problems related to gestational diabetes.
About 8.5% of people who gave birth in Minnesota in 2020 had gestational diabetes.2
How do I know if I have gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes develops half-way through pregnancy. You may not know you have gestational diabetes until your doctor tests your blood sugar when you are 24-28 weeks pregnant.1 If you have a higher chance of having diabetes during pregnancy, your doctor may test you earlier.
Gestational diabetes usually disappears after delivery, but it can increase your and your baby’s chances of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
What does gestational diabetes mean for me or my baby?
With the right care and support, you can have a safe pregnancy and healthy baby. However, there are risks.
People with gestational diabetes are more likely to have:1
- Cesarian section (C-section)
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes after pregnancy
- Miscarriage or stillbirth
Babies of people with gestational diabetes are more likely to have:1
- High birth weight (over nine pounds)
- Low blood sugar
- Overweight or obesity
- Type 2 diabetes later in life
- Breathing problems
What can I do if I have gestational diabetes?
Keeping your blood sugar at a healthy level is the most important thing you can do.
Your doctor will tell you what is a healthy level for you. If you have gestational diabetes, focus on B.A.B.Y.
- B: Blood sugar. Regularly check your blood sugar. Ask your doctor what times and how often to check it.
- A: Activity. Be physically active at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week. Ask your doctor about safe ways to be active during pregnancy.
- B: Balanced diet. Choose healthy foods and serving size. Ask your doctor to have you meet with a diabetes educator or dietician. They can help you make a plan to control your blood sugar.
- Y: Your future. Be sure to go to all your prenatal doctor visits to check you and your baby’s health throughout your pregnancy. In addition, gestational diabetes increases the likelihood of type 2 diabetes later in life. Talk to your doctor about steps you can take after pregnancy to stay healthy.
Download the Focus on B.A.B.Y. flyer (PDF).
Learn more about gestational diabetes taking care of yourself before, during, and after pregnancy.
Can I prevent gestational diabetes?
Anyone can develop gestational diabetes. Being physically active and losing excess weight prior to pregnancy may help lower your chance of gestational diabetes. However, people who have a healthy weight can get gestational diabetes, too.
If you are already pregnant, do not try to lose weight. Talk to your doctor about what healthy weight gain will be for you.
If you are planning to get pregnant, go to your doctor to plan for a healthy pregnancy.
Who is at risk for gestational diabetes?Anyone can develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, regardless of background, lifestyle, or physical traits.
There are some factors that may increase your chances of developing gestational diabetes:3
- Being overweight
- Family history of type 2 diabetes
- History of gestational diabetes
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
If you have any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor if you're planning to get pregnant.
What should I do after I had gestational diabetes?
Prevent type 2 diabetes
Half of women with gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes after pregnancy.4There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of diabetes.
- Keep a healthy weight after and between pregnancies.
- Ask your doctor about lifestyle change programs, which can help you lose weight and prevent diabetes in a peer support group setting. You can also search for classes in Minnesota near you through Juniper, University of Minnesota Extension, the YMCA, and your local parks & recreation program or community organizations.
See your doctor
Continue to see your doctor as directed to monitor for type 2 diabetes. Talk about what steps you can take to prepare for another pregnancy.
Help your baby grow up to be healthy
Your baby may be large at birth. Babies whose parent had gestational diabetes are more likely to become overweight or obese during childhood and to develop type 2 diabetes when they're older.
You can help keep your child at a healthy weight with physical activity and a balanced diet. Ask your child’s doctor to have you meet with a dietician if you need help with your child’s weight.
You may be eligible for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, which helps pregnant people, new parents, babies and young children eat well, learn about nutrition, and stay healthy.
A family home visiting program for pregnant people and new parents can help you with your health and taking care of your baby. Public health workers or nurses visit you during or after pregnancy. Contact your county or city health department to see if you are eligible for a home-visiting services.
1Managing and treating gestational diabetes. National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2021
2Population-level health indicators for monitoring the picture of diabetes in Minnesota. MDH, 2022
3Diabetes risk factors. CDC, 2021
4Gestational diabetes. CDC, 2021