What Is Gestational Diabetes? Know Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Around 10% of pregnant women suffer from gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Know everything from causes, symptoms & prevention here.

Chanchal Sengar
Written by: Chanchal SengarUpdated at: Jan 20, 2021 13:44 IST
What Is Gestational Diabetes? Know Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Diabetes is generally perceived as one condition but do you know there are many kinds of diabetes? Gestational diabetes is referred to diabetes developed during gestation or pregnancy. In most cases, though gestational diabetes goes away after delivery, it increases the risk of type-2 diabetes later in life. Also, it may affect the health of the newborn. As per Dr. Nusrat A H, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Banashankari, Bangalore, pregnant women must remain under constant medical observation to avert this condition. Preventing gestational diabetes is important for both mother and baby. You can read everything about gestational diabetes in this article.

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a kind of diabetes that women develop during pregnancy. It is important to manage the condition in order to have a healthy baby. Pregnant women must know that elevated blood sugar levels during pregnancy or gestational diabetes condition increases the risk of preterm birth. Particularly, if the mother gets diabetes before 24 weeks of pregnancy, the risk of premature delivery is high along with other health complications. Obese and physically inactive women are most likely to develop gestational diabetes. Besides, women having high blood pressure or a history of cardiac disease and one who had gestational diabetes or a baby with macrosomia in a past pregnancy are also at greater risk. Gestational diabetes requires treatment at the earliest to keep the baby and pregnancy safe. 

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes


The most common symptoms or warning signs of gestational diabetes to watch out for are:

  • Unusual thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Sugar in the urine
  • Fatigue or vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Vaginal infection
  • Bladder and skin infections

Since a lot of these symptoms are experienced during pregnancy, a lot of women ignore these until they find out about gestational diabetes during a routine screening.

Also Read: Reverse Type 2 Diabetes With This Effective Diet Plan By Diabetes Educator and Dietitian Swati Bathwal

What Causes Gestational Diabetes?

Insulin which is produced in the pancreas is responsible for the body’s metabolism and converts sugar into energy. Gestational diabetes is the result of hormones in placenta blocking the insulin and thus preventing the body from regulating the increased sugar of pregnancy effectively. This results in sugar levels shooting high in the blood that can cause damage to the nerves, blood vessels and organs in the body.

Who are at risk for gestational diabetes?

  • Obese/ overweight women: A woman having a BMI of 30+ and which can go up higher during the pregnancy journey is one of the most common causes of gestational diabetes since the extra weight can affect the production of insulin and thus the sugar levels can go up.
  • Abdominal fat: Studies have proved that tummy fat can be a potential risk factor especially in the first trimester of pregnancy that can cause gestational diabetes.
  • You are older: Women in the age group of 30–35 years are at risk of developing gestational diabetes. There are other possible risks of late pregnancy that you can read here.
  • Family History: In case of diabetes runs in the family especially if present in one of the parents or close relative, chances of developing gestational diabetes is quite high. At times if a woman had a history of gestational diabetes in the first pregnancy it’s quite possible she develops in the next pregnancy also.
  • Pre-diabetes diagnosis: The blood sugar levels are slightly elevated before the conception then there is a possibility of developing this condition. 
  • Bed Rest: In case a woman is on bed rest during to complications in the pregnancy, one is more likely to put on weight and thus cause gestational diabetes. 
  • Multiple pregnancies: If a woman is pregnant with twins or triplets this increases the risk of gestational diabetes. They must keep in regular touch with the doctor to diagnose and prevent gestational diabetes.
  • Existing medical condition: Women with complaints of polycystic ovary syndrome(PCOS), hypertension, hormonal imbalance or any other associated metabolic syndrome can be inflicted with this condition. 

How gestational diabetes affect babies?

Here are some problems that babies of diabetic mothers may suffer from:

  • Complications during delivery
  • Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar level in the baby
  • Problem in breastfeeding
  • Macrosomia where the baby grows abnormally
  • Jaundice or pale skin
  • Placental insufficiency hinders the growth of the baby and increases the risk of intrauterine growth restriction
  • Risk of developing diabetes later in life
  • Increased risk of polycythemia
  • Respiratory issues in the baby

In most cases, the effects of gestational diabetes on babies are long-term. They may have to bear the consequences throughout their life. They gradually develop lifelong illnesses as a result of their mothers’ gestational diabetes condition. Therefore, treating and preventing diabetes during pregnancy is very important to not let it affect the health and well-being of the baby. Continue reading to know about possible ways to treat and prevent gestational diabetes.

Also Read: Healthy Pregnancy Snacks For Gestational Diabetes


Gestational Diabetes Treatment

The three possible ways to treat or control diabetes during pregnancy are:

  • Blood sugar monitoring
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Medication, if necessary

A woman who is diagnosed with gestational diabetes need to monitor her blood sugar levels regularly, this would help in tracking whether her diabetes is under control or the levels are increasing. If you see any concerning fluctuation, you must ask your doctor for medications. However, avoiding medicines as much as possible is suggested. Besides, making lifestyle changes that can positively affect blood sugar levels are recommended. These include cutting down sugary foods & beverages from your diet; regulate carbohydrates in your food; have healthy meals and avoid oily foods, etc.

Also Read: 7 Best Winter Fruits For Pregnancy

How to Prevent Gestational Diabetes?

Gynaecologist Dr. Nusrat A H has suggested the following tips for gestational diabetes prevention:


  • Staying active: It is important to maintain healthy weight gain during pregnancy and therefore there several ways to keep fit. Walking and pregnancy yoga can be a great exercise for pregnant women during their journey. A simple walk even of just 15 minutes post-dinner or a meal can help in burning calories and thus keep the sugar levels under control.
  • Healthy diet: This is a very crucial aspect of pregnancy. Eating right and consumption of fruits, green vegetables, lean meats, nuts and following a healthy balanced diet can go a long way in the prevention of gestational diabetes. It is best to avoid food loaded with too much sugar, Trans fat and processed foods. One must opt for healthy portions and it is better to break down your meals into 6 servings to avoid overeating.
  • Monitor your weight: Under the guidance of a health practitioner, it is important to maintain BMI and avoid gaining excessive weight.
  • Maintain food diary: It is a good idea to record after every meal so that one can monitor the spike in sugar levels and also this helps in keeping the calories under check.


A healthy diet coupled with an exercise/antenatal programme is good enough to keep gestational diabetes under control. However, the doctor may suggest supplementary insulin shots if need be depending on the sugar levels. Additionally, fetal monitoring in the third semester including either nonstress tests and/or biophysical profiles, to make sure your baby’s heart rate, amniotic fluid levels and movements are normal. A mother must exercise all the precautions to prevent gestational diabetes and safeguard her and her baby’s health. Whenever needed, consult your gynaecologist to clear your doubts. Follow all the precautions suggested by the doctor for a healthy and smooth gestation.

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