Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that affects pregnant women, usually during the second or third trimester. Women with gestational diabetes don’t have diabetes before their pregnancy, and after giving birth it usually goes away. In some women diabetes may be diagnosed in the first trimester, and in these cases the condition most likely existed before pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes is usually diagnosed through a blood test at 24–28 weeks into pregnancy.
Women who have had the condition in previous pregnancies may be tested earlier. With good management of gestational diabetes, you can increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and baby.
What causes gestational diabetes?
The hormones produced during pregnancy can make it difficult for your body to use insulin properly, putting you at an increased risk of insulin resistance. And, because pregnancy places a heavy demand on the body, some women are less able to produce enough insulin to overcome this resistance. This makes it difficult to use glucose properly for energy, so the glucose remains in the blood and the levels rise, leading to gestational diabetes.
Who is at risk of gestational diabetes?
Women can significantly reduce their risk of developing gestational diabetes by managing their weight, eating healthily and keeping active.
You are at an increased risk if you:
- are overweight or obese
- have had gestational diabetes before
- have had a very large baby in a previous pregnancy (4.5kg/10lb or over)
- have a family history of diabetes (parent, brother or sister)
- are from a South Asian, Black or African Caribbean or Middle Eastern background.
Gestational diabetes checklist
To make sure you get the right care and information, make sure you:
- understand gestational diabetes and how it is treated
- ask for a blood glucose meter and agree your individual targets
- have a Maternity Exemption Certificate or Card, which will entitle you to free prescriptions (ask your GP or diabetes healthcare team)
- know the members of your healthcare team and what they do to help you
- ask to see a dietitian to talk about your diet and physical activity
- know who to call if you need extra support
- understand how to treat a hypo and a hyper.