What I need to know about Gestational Diabetes
What is my risk of gestational diabetes?
To learn your risk for gestational diabetes, check each item that applies to you. Talk with your doctor about your risk at your first prenatal visit.
If you checked any of these risk factors, ask your health care team about testing for gestational diabetes.
When will I be checked for gestational diabetes?
Your doctor will decide when you need to be checked for diabetes depending on your risk factors.
How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?
Your health care team will check your blood glucose level. Depending on your risk and your test results, you may have one or more of the following tests.
Fasting blood glucose or random blood glucose test
Your doctor may check your blood glucose level using a test called a fasting blood glucose test. Before this test, your doctor will ask you to fast, which means having nothing to eat or drink except water for at least 8 hours. Or your doctor may check your blood glucose at any time during the day. This is called a random blood glucose test.
These tests can find gestational diabetes in some women, but other tests are needed to be sure diabetes is not missed.
Screening glucose challenge test
For this test, you will drink a sugary beverage and have your blood glucose level checked an hour later. This test can be done at any time of the day. If the results are above normal, you may need further tests.
Oral glucose tolerance test
If you have this test, your health care provider will give you special instructions to follow. For at least 3 days before the test, you should eat normally. Then you will fast for at least 8 hours before the test.
The health care team will check your blood glucose level before the test. Then you will drink a sugary beverage. The staff will check your blood glucose levels 1 hour, 2 hours, and 3 hours later. If your levels are above normal at least twice during the test, you have gestational diabetes.
Above-normal results for the oral glucose tolerance test*
How will gestational diabetes affect my baby?
Untreated or uncontrolled gestational diabetes can mean problems for your baby, such as
If you have gestational diabetes, your health care team may recommend some extra tests to check on your baby, such as
Working closely with your health care team will help you give birth to a healthy baby.
Both you and your baby are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes for the rest of your lives.
How will gestational diabetes affect me?
Often, women with gestational diabetes have no symptoms. However, gestational diabetes may
The good news is your gestational diabetes will probably go away after your baby is born. However, you will be more likely to get type 2 diabetes later in your life. (See the information on how to lower your chances of getting type 2 diabetes.) You may also get gestational diabetes again if you get pregnant again.
Some women wonder whether breastfeeding is OK after they have had gestational diabetes. Breastfeeding is recommended for most babies, including those whose mothers had gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is serious, even if you have no symptoms. Taking care of yourself helps keep your baby healthy.
How is gestational diabetes treated?
Treating gestational diabetes means taking steps to keep your blood glucose levels in a target range. You will learn how to control your blood glucose using
You will talk with a dietitian or a diabetes educator who will design a meal plan to help you choose foods that are healthy for you and your baby. Using a meal plan will help keep your blood glucose in your target range. The plan will provide guidelines on which foods to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat. Choices, amounts, and timing are all important in keeping your blood glucose levels in your target range.
You may be advised to
For more about meal planning, call the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse for a copy of What I need to know about Eating and Diabetes.
Physical activity, such as walking and swimming, can help you reach your blood glucose targets. Talk with your health care team about the type of activity that is best for you. If you are already active, tell your health care team what you do.
Some women with gestational diabetes need insulin, in addition to a meal plan and physical activity, to reach their blood glucose targets. If necessary, your health care team will show you how to give yourself insulin. Insulin is not harmful for your baby. It cannot move from your bloodstream to the baby's.
How will I know whether my blood glucose levels are on target?
Your health care team may ask you to use a small device called a blood glucose meter to check your levels on your own. You will learn
You may be asked to check your blood glucose
The following chart shows blood glucose targets for most women with gestational diabetes. Talk with your health care team about whether these targets are right for you.
Blood glucose targets for most women with gestational diabetes
Each time you check your blood glucose, write down the results in a record book. Take the book with you when you visit your health care team. If your results are often out of range, your health care team will suggest ways you can reach your targets.
Will I need to do other tests on my own?
Your health care team may teach you how to test for ketones (KEE-tones) in your morning urine or in your blood. High levels of ketones are a sign that your body is using your body fat for energy instead of the food you eat. Using fat for energy is not recommended during pregnancy. Ketones may be harmful for your baby.
If your ketone levels are high, your health care providers may suggest that you change the type or amount of food you eat. Or you may need to change your meal times or snack times.
After I have my baby, how can I find out whether my diabetes is gone?
You will probably have a blood glucose test 6 to 12 weeks after your baby is born to see whether you still have diabetes. For most women, gestational diabetes goes away after pregnancy. You are, however, at risk of having gestational diabetes during future pregnancies or getting type 2 diabetes later.
How can I prevent or delay getting type 2 diabetes later in life?
You can do a lot to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.
Remind your health care team to check your blood glucose levels regularly. Women who have had gestational diabetes should continue to be tested for diabetes or prediabetes every 1 to 2 years. Diagnosing diabetes or prediabetes early can help prevent complications such as heart disease later.
Your child's risk for type 2 diabetes may be lower if you breastfeed your baby and if your child maintains a healthy weight.
Where can I get more information?
Diabetes Teachers (nurses, dietitians, and other health professionals)
For more information about diabetes, contact the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC) for free copies of these publications or read them online:
Preventing Type 2 Diabetes
The NDIC would like to thank the following individuals who provided editorial guidance or facilitated field-testing of this publication.
Boyd E. Metzger, M.D.
Susan A. Biastre, R.D., L.D.N., C.D.E.
Beverly Gardner, R.D., L.D.N., C.D.E.
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse
The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC) is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The NIDDK is part of the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Established in 1978, the Clearinghouse provides information about diabetes to people with diabetes and to their families, health care professionals, and the public. The NDIC answers inquiries, develops and distributes publications, and works closely with professional and patient organizations and Government agencies to coordinate resources about diabetes.
This publication is not copyrighted. The Clearinghouse encourages users of this publication to duplicate and distribute as many copies as desired.
NIH Publication No. 06-5129
Page last updated: December 6, 2011