Skip to Content
We welcome visitors to our care settings while they’re wearing masks. View our updated visitor guidelines.

NorthShore’s online source for timely health and wellness news, inspiring patient stories and tips to lead a healthy life.

Healthy You

Healthy Mother & Baby: Gestational Diabetes

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 2:40 PM

Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy, typically between the 24th and 28th weeks. Most women will experience some change in glucose levels during pregnancy due to fluctuating hormone levels. Gestational diabetes develops when glucose levels rise but a woman’s pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. Developing gestational diabetes does not mean a woman was diabetic prior to her pregnancy, however approximately 20% of women with gestational diabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.  Women with gestational diabetes must make lifestyle changes to ensure their health as well as their baby’s. 

Rebecca Jacobson, MD, Obstetrics/Gynecology, discusses when women should be screened and what changes an expectant mother should make after diagnosis:

Women are screened for gestational diabetes approximately 24-28 weeks into pregnancy. However, women who are at a higher risk for developing gestational diabetes—risk factors such as obesity, previous instance of gestational diabetes, family history of diabetes—will likely require earlier screening. 

It’s important to keep gestational diabetes in check to prevent complications that could affect your baby, such as excessive birth weight, increased risk of cesarean section, increased risk of birth trauma, premature birth, low infant blood sugar at birth, and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes and obesity later in life. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can also result in a baby’s death. 

Treatment options:

  • Monitor blood sugar. Expectant mothers diagnosed with gestational diabetes will likely have to monitor blood sugar upwards of four to five times a day—in the morning and after meals— to keep levels within a healthy range. 
  • Maintain a healthy diet. The right foods and portion sizes, as well as steering clear of sugary snacks and drinks, will help keep sugar levels in check and prevent excess weight gain during pregnancy. Women newly diagnosed with gestational diabetes should work with their doctors and a nutritionist to create a balanced diet plan with weight gain goals because weight loss is not recommended during pregnancy. 
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise is important during pregnancy both for mother and growing baby. Exercise lowers blood sugar levels because the body transports glucose into cells, which produces the energy for physical activity. Moderate-to-vigorous exercise, with a doctor’s permission, is recommended nearly every day of the week.
  • Supplement with medication. Changing one’s diet and regular exercise might not be enough to combat gestational diabetes. Some women will require additional treatment with medication, which can be administered orally or as an injection. 

Have questions about gestational diabetes or advice to offer other women newly diagnosed with gestational diabetes? Join our new online community The Parent 'Hood to start a conversation today. Click here to find out more.