Gestational diabetes | Diabetes & Endocrinology | UC Davis Health

Gestational Diabetes

Pregnancy can cause numerous changes to a woman’s body, including an unhealthy increase in blood sugar. That condition is called gestational diabetes. Not every pregnancy causes it, but even women who have never before had diabetes can develop gestational diabetes. It tends to emerge in the second trimester, at about 24 to 28 weeks into a pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes can pose problems not only for a pregnant woman but also for the unborn baby in her womb. A woman with gestational diabetes may be at increased risk of preeclampsia (high blood pressure), and the fetus may grow larger than desired, prompting a premature delivery or requiring a Cesarean delivery (C-section). A child born to a woman with gestational diabetes may have breathing problems, and the condition also places a woman at risk of developing ongoing type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, gestational diabetes is easily treatable to help women live with it.

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

Women with gestational diabetes may experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination

Causes of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes results when hormones in the placenta interfere with insulin production or use during pregnancy. Insulin is a hormone that the liver produces to help the cells throughout the body absorb sugar — glucose — from the bloodstream and use it to produce energy for the body to function. Genetic makeup and excess weight can influence whether a woman develops gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

The risk of developing the disorder is highest among women who:

  • Have prediabetes (a history of blood glucose that is higher than normal)
  • Have hypertension (high blood pressure) or heart disease
  • Have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Had previously given birth to a baby of nine pounds or greater

Treatment of Gestational Diabetes

Women with gestational diabetes may need to monitor their blood sugar at home using a glucose meter. Our physician specialists help patients manage the condition by means of several approaches, including:

  • Eating healthy foods consisting of proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and unprocessed carbohydrates
  • Avoiding added sugars and salts in foods and beverages
  • Eating smaller meals frequently throughout the day
  • Physical activity, including brisk walking