What is gestational diabetes?

During pregnancy, a woman’s body needs two to three times more insulin than usual to keep her blood glucose levels normal. Gestational diabetes develops if your pancreas is unable to produce the extra insulin needed, causing above normal blood glucose levels.

Gestational diabetes can be treated with diet and exercise, and will usually improve or disappear after your baby is born. A small number of women may need insulin injections to help control blood glucose levels during pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes can affect both your health and the health of your unborn baby. In an unborn baby, it may cause defects in the heart, skeleton and muscles (congenital abnormalities) or in the part of the nervous system composed of the brain and spinal cord. If you have gestational diabetes, your doctor will need to monitor your blood glucose levels, and you may need to make changes to your diet. Your doctor or a dietitian can provide advice about this.

About 10% to 50% of women who have gestational diabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. If you develop gestational diabetes, your doctor may test you for diabetes 3 months after your baby is born, and every 1 or 2 years after that.

If you have had gestational diabetes, maintaining a healthy weight, and regular physical activity and exercise will help to prevent diabetes in the future.