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Understanding gestational diabetes

Find out if you're at risk. Learn how it's treated.

Gestational diabetes affects nearly 10% of all pregnant women. It usually happens during the second or third trimester.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says all pregnant women should be checked for the condition. This is usually done between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy.

At risk

Several factors can raise your risk. Race/ethnicity is one. You're at higher risk if you are:

  • Hispanic or Latina.
  • African American.
  • Native American.
  • Pacific Islander.
  • Asian.

The March of Dimes lists these additional risk factors:

  • Being overweight.
  • Having a family history of diabetes.
  • Having a personal history of gestational diabetes.
  • Having a personal history of blood sugar problems.
  • Giving birth to a large baby in the past.
  • Being older than 25.


The baby may get extra glucose from the mom's blood. And that can make the baby grow larger than normal. A big baby can mean a harder delivery. If the baby can't be born vaginally, you may need a C-section.

It can also cause complications for babies after birth, including breathing problems, jaundice, low blood sugar, obesity later in life, and diabetes later in life.

There is good news about gestational diabetes. It usually goes away once the baby is born.

But there's also a downside. It does increase your risk for type 2 diabetes later in life. This disease can be serious. But it can also be prevented. Your doctor can help you make a plan for avoiding it.


For most women, a few steps can keep the problem in check:

  • Choose a healthy diet.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Keep tabs on blood glucose levels.

These steps may also head off problems. They can help prevent complications during pregnancy or birth.

But these steps aren't always enough. Some women need to take insulin too.

Gestational vs. insulin-dependent diabetes

Gestational diabetes isn't the same as type 1 diabetes. Type 1 may increase the risk of birth defects. If you have type 1 and are thinking of having a baby, talk to your doctor. It's important to manage the disease both before and during pregnancy.

Reviewed 2/27/2024

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