Gestational Diabetes

What is gestational diabetes?

(Content provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that a woman can develop during pregnancy.

When you have diabetes, your body cannot use the sugars and starches (carbohydrates) it takes in from food to make energy. As a result, your body collects extra sugar in your blood.

What causes gestational diabetes?

We don’t know all the causes of gestational diabetes. Some—but not all—women with gestational diabetes are overweight before getting pregnant or have a family history of diabetes. Nearly 1 in 50 to 1 in 20 pregnant women have gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes can be controlled.

It is very important that you work with your doctor to make a plan to keep your blood sugar in control. Following this plan can help you have a healthy pregnancy and baby. It also can help you and your baby stay healthy after birth.

Gestational diabetes can affect your baby.

Gestational diabetes that is not controlled can cause your baby to:

  • Grow very large (weigh more than 9 pounds), which in turn can lead to problems with the delivery of your baby. A large baby born through the birth canal can injure nerves in his shoulder; break her collarbone; or, rarely, have brain damage from lack of oxygen.
  • Have quickly changing blood sugar after delivery. Your baby’s doctor will watch for low blood sugar after birth and treat it if needed.
  • Be more likely to become overweight or obese during childhood or adolescence. Obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes can affect you.

Gestational diabetes that is not controlled can cause you to:

  • Have problems during delivery.
  • Have a very large baby and need to have a cesarean section (C-section) (an operation to get your baby out through your abdomen).
  • Take longer to recover from childbirth if your baby is delivered by C-section.

Other problems that sometimes happen with gestational diabetes

  • Women with gestational diabetes also can develop preeclampsia*.
  • Sometimes, diabetes does not go away after delivery or comes back later after pregnancy. When this happens, the diabetes then is called type 2 diabetes.


* Preeclampsia is a problem that happens among some women during pregnancy. Women with preeclampsia have high blood pressure; protein in their urine; and, often, swollen feet, legs, fingers, and hands. Preeclampsia can harm you by causing seizures or a stroke. It might also cause your baby to be born early.

The Mary & Dick Allen Diabetes Center can help manage gestational diabetes and assist in a healthy pregnancy and baby through its award-winning, state-affiliated Sweet Success program, offering gestational diabetes counseling by certified diabetes educators.

For the Sweet Success program (diabetes during pregnancy), please have your healthcare provider complete this form.