Gestational Diabetes | OB-GYN


Gestational Diabetes

We offer gestational diabetes testing, education and management throughout your pregnancy.

Medically reviewed by Nancy Field, M.D. on Sep. 05, 2023.

Pregnant woman looking at the ultrasound of her baby

What Is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a condition that causes your blood sugar to get too high during pregnancy. It’s a form of diabetes that can affect women who don’t already have type 1 or type 2 diabetes when they get pregnant.

Gestational diabetes affects up to 10-15% of pregnancies in the U.S. For most people, the condition goes away on its own after pregnancy. But having gestational diabetes increases your chances of developing type 2 diabetes after pregnancy by about 50%.

At UC Davis Health, we offer complete care for gestational diabetes. Obstetricians and diabetes specialists work together to give you the education, testing and treatment you need. We focus on reducing the risk of pregnancy complications and helping you have the joyful experience you deserve.


Gestational Diabetes Symptoms

Gestational diabetes doesn’t usually cause symptoms. If it does, they’re very mild. Most people with gestational diabetes aren’t aware that they have the condition until they receive a test.

Common Gestational Diabetes Symptoms

Some people with gestational diabetes experience:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea

Gestational Diabetes Causes and Risk Factors

During pregnancy, your body may not produce or use insulin as it should. Insulin is a hormone that breaks down glucose (a type of sugar) from food and converts it to energy. Changes to your body during pregnancy, such as hormonal fluctuations and weight gain, can affect how effectively insulin works. This can also cause your blood sugar to get too high.

You are at a higher risk for gestational diabetes if you have any of the following risk factors. Talk with your provider to learn more about your risk.


Women older than 25 are at a higher risk of gestational diabetes.

Family History

People who have a parent or sibling with diabetes (type 1 or type 2) are more likely to develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

Health History

A history of high blood pressure, heart disease, prediabetes or hormone disorders, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), increases your risk of gestational diabetes.

Physical Inactivity

Exercise helps insulin work better and keep blood glucose levels in check. Not exercising puts you at a higher risk of diabetes.

Race and Ethnicity

Rates of gestational diabetes are higher in people who are Black, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Hispanic/Latino or Pacific Islander.


Having excess weight or obesity can affect the way insulin works in your body, increasing your chances of diabetes during pregnancy.


Diagnosing Gestational Diabetes

We use blood tests to diagnose gestational diabetes during your second trimester, between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. We may recommend earlier testing if you’re at a higher risk of gestational diabetes.

Tests include:

  • Glucose screening test: This test is also called a glucose challenge test. You drink a sweet liquid containing glucose. We wait one hour and do a blood test to check your blood glucose level. If your blood glucose is high, we do an oral glucose tolerance test.
  • Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT): We test your blood sugar before and after you consume a larger dose of glucose. We test your blood sugar one, two and three hours after your glucose drink.

Gestational Diabetes Treatments

There are several ways that you can manage gestational diabetes, including at-home monitoring, diet, exercise and possibly medication. Your healthcare provider will make a treatment plan that fits your needs.

It’s very important to control gestational diabetes during your pregnancy. Uncontrolled high blood sugar increases the risk of:

  • Birth injuries
  • Cesarean section (C-section)
  • Macrosomia (larger than average fetus)
  • Preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy)
  • Preterm birth (live birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
  • Stillbirth (death of baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy)
At-Home Glucose Monitoring

You will use a blood sugar meter to measure your blood glucose levels at home when you first get up in the morning and after each meal. Your healthcare provider will explain your target range and tell you what to do if your blood sugar gets too high.


Your gestational diabetes diet should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. We can connect you to a registered dietitian who can help you build a nutrition plan specifically to manage diabetes.


Low-impact aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming or yoga, is ideal for pregnant people. Talk to your healthcare provider about safe ways to stay active.


Your healthcare provider may recommend insulin if diet and exercise aren’t enough to keep your blood glucose under control. Your provider will explain how and when you should take insulin.


Preventing Gestational Diabetes

You can reduce your risk of gestational diabetes by maintaining a healthy body weight and getting regular exercise before you get pregnant.

How common is it?

<10%Of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes

Pregnant women who had gestational diabetes are

50%More likely to develop type 2 diabetes after pregnancy

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Gestational Diabetes

Request an Appointment

As Sacramento's No. 1 hospital, you'll benefit from unique advantages in primary care and specialty care. This includes prevention, diagnosis and treatment options from experts in 150 specialties.

Referring Physicians

To refer a patient, you can submit an electronic referral form or call.



For questions and appointment information

Diabetes Clinic Locations

We offer diabetes diagnosis and treatment at four of our clinics throughout the Sacramento region.

Awards and Recognitions
USNWR Best Hospital badge

Ranked among the nation’s best hospitals

A U.S. News & World Report best hospital in cancer, cardiology, heart & vascular surgery, diabetes & endocrinology, ENT, geriatrics, neurology & neurosurgery, orthopedics, and pulmonology & lung surgery.

Learn more
US News & World Report best Children’s Hospital badge

Ranked among the nation’s best children’s hospitals

A U.S. News & World Report best children’s hospital in diabetes & endocrinology, nephrology, and orthopedics*. (*Together with Shriners Children’s)

Learn more
USNWR best regional hospital badge

Ranked Sacramento’s #1 hospital

Ranked Sacramento’s #1 hospital by U.S. News, and high-performing in back surgery, COPD, colon cancer surgery, gynecological cancer surgery, heart attack, heart failure, hip fracture, kidney failure, leukemia, lymphoma & myeloma, lung cancer surgery, pneumonia, prostate cancer surgery, stroke, TAVR, and gastroenterology & GI surgery.

Learn more
Magnet designation badge

The nation’s highest nursing honor

UC Davis Medical Center has received Magnet® recognition, the nation’s highest honor for nursing excellence.

Learn more
Chime acute badge

“Most Wired” for acute care

UC Davis Health has been recognized as a level 10 out of 10 in the Digital Health “Most Wired” program from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME). The honor recognizes excellence in using technology to improve the delivery of care.

Learn more
Chime ambulatory badge

“Most Wired” for ambulatory care

UC Davis Health has been recognized as a level 10 out of 10 in the Digital Health “Most Wired” program from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME). The honor recognizes excellence in using technology to improve the delivery of care.

Learn more
NCI badge

World-class cancer care

One of ~56 U.S. cancer centers designated “comprehensive” by the National Cancer Institute.

Learn more

A leader in health care equality

For the 13th consecutive year, UC Davis Medical Center has been recognized as an LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Leader by the educational arm of America’s largest civil rights organization.

Learn more
See more