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Gestational Diabetes

Contact Maternal Fetal Medicine at UPMC-Magee Womens Hospital

To make an appointment with a maternal fetal medicine expert, call 412-641-6361.


What Is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that occurs during pregnancy and goes away after giving birth.

During pregnancy, hormone changes hinder how your body uses insulin as it normally does when you're not pregnant. Gestational diabetes occurs when your blood sugar is too high during pregnancy because of excess resistance to insulin.

About 5 to 10 percent of women get gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes risk factors

Some factors before and during pregnancy can increase your risk of gestational diabetes, such as:

  • Metabolic dysfunction.
  • Prediabetes.
  • Family history of diabetes.
  • Having gestational diabetes in the past.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
  • Obesity.
  • Major weight gain during pregnancy.
  • History of large baby (over 9 pounds).

Gestational diabetes complications

Effects on the mother

Gestational diabetes can increase the mother's risk of:

  • A tough delivery.
  • C-section.
  • Pelvic floor injury
  • Preeclampsia.
  • Future type 2 diabetes.

Effects on the baby

Gestational diabetes also affects the baby, increasing their risk of:

  • Being large (over nine pounds).
  • Being born early.
  • Delayed growth of some organs.
  • Low blood sugar at birth.
  • Type 2 diabetes later in life.

Preventing gestational diabetes

The best way to prevent gestational diabetes is to achieve a normal body weight and form healthy eating habits before getting pregnant.

Mothers should also try to follow guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy.

Why Choose UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital for Gestational Diabetes Care?

UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital cares for more than 800 women with diabetes during pregnancy each year.

To make sure both mom and baby are safe, we offer:

  • Diabetes educators as part of maternal fetal medicine team.
  • Telemedicine consults for women out in the community.
  • Extensive experience and resources for women with gestational diabetes.

Learn more at UPMC's Center for Diabetes and Pregnancy. Or call 412-641-4200.

Gestational Diabetes Symptoms and Diagnosis

Gestational diabetes doesn't have any symptoms, which is why every woman gets a test during pregnancy.

You'll have testing around 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. If you're at higher risk, your doctor may test you sooner.

Gestational diabetes diagnosis

Your doctor will order a few tests to check for gestational diabetes.

Glucose challenge test

This is the first test every woman has to screen for diabetes where:

  • You drink a glucose solution and wait one hour.
  • Your doctor draws blood and tests your blood sugar.

If your blood glucose measures high — above 135 — you'll need to come back for the oral glucose tolerance test.

Oral glucose tolerance test

For this test:

  • You fast for eight hours.
  • Your doctor draws your blood and tests your blood sugar.
  • Then you drink a glucose liquid.
  • The doctor checks your blood sugar every hour for the next three hours.

Two or more high-glucose results confirm gestational diabetes.

Treatment for Gestational Diabetes

It's vital to manage diabetes throughout your pregnancy to prevent problems to you and your baby.

You'll need to check your blood sugar and follow an eating plan that helps keep your blood sugar under control. Daily physical activity will also help reduce risks from gestational diabetes.

A diabetes educator can create a meal plan with you or provide you with basic guidance on managing diabetes during your pregnancy.

Diet for managing gestational diabetes

Your diet should include:

  • Fruits and vegetables, especially raw.
  • Lean protein like turkey or chicken.
  • Some healthy fats like eggs, nuts, and avocado.
  • Some whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, or wheat bread.

Avoid foods high in sugar or simple carbohydrates, such as:

  • Pasta
  • White bread
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Fried food
  • Fruit juices and sodas

Long-term management of blood sugar

Women who have gestational diabetes are about 50 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes within the next 15 years.

It's crucial to maintain a healthy weight after pregnancy and to continue healthy eating habits.

Breastfeeding can help decrease a women's risk of long term type 2 diabetes.

You should have a blood glucose test every few years to detect diabetes or prediabetes early.