Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can develop during any stage of pregnancy, but more commonly during the second or third trimester, and then usually disappears after the baby is born. If you do develop gestational diabetes, treatment is available to help keep your blood sugar levels under control.

Gestational diabetes can cause problems for both the mother and child if it’s not treated. It’s important to be aware of the symptoms and to talk to your doctor if you think you may have this condition. If you are deemed more at risk of developing gestational diabetes then you will be invited to take part in an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test, otherwise known as an OGTT.

Risk factors are determined at your first antenatal appointment where your midwife will ask you a series of questions about your own health, lifestyle and family history.

Even if you don’t have any risk factors, gestational diabetes can still develop during your pregnancy so it’s important to be aware of this condition. Women who are considered to be at a higher risk and who will be offered the OGTT have one or more of the following:

  • Either one of your parents or a sibling has diabetes, either type 1 or type 2.
  •  You have had gestational diabetes before
  • You have had a baby who weighed 10lb or more at birth
  • Your BMI is above 30
  • You are from Middle Eastern, African-Caribbean, Black or South Asian origin

Gestational diabetes occurs as a result of the body not being able to produce enough insulin, this is the hormone that is responsible for controlling blood sugar levels. Gestational diabetes can be dangerous for you and your baby if left undiagnosed and untreated so it’s important to attend screening programmes if you are deemed at risk, most of the time gestational diabetes does not cause any symptoms and is often only detected because of the OGTT.
Here are some of the common symptoms to watch out for if your blood sugar levels become too high:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Having a dry mouth
  • Fatigue

Unmonitored and untreated gestational diabetes can cause many problems, including:

  • Stillbirth
  • Premature birth
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Your baby growing bigger than what is considered usual, this can lead to difficulties during birth and an increased chance of needing an induction of labour or caesarean section
  • Polyhydramnios – this is the term used for too much amniotic fluid
  • Baby having low blood sugar levels when they are born which may require treatment
  • Baby developing jaundice when they are born which may require treatment

If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes then you may need to be closely monitored throughout your pregnancy and birth. Often, women with gestational diabetes need close monitoring of blood sugar levels and are advised to discuss the best treatment options with their doctor moving forward. Sometimes blood sugar levels can be reduced through lifestyle changes but if this is not effective then you may need to take some medications to help.

If you develop gestational diabetes then this increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future and also having gestational diabetes again with future pregnancies.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional.

NHS | Gestational Diabetes |