Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is the occurrence of diabetes during pregnancy, when hormones cause the body to become resistant to insulin, leading to higher blood sugar levels. Most women without known diabetes are screened for gestational diabetes during pregnancy. There is an important difference between pregnancies in women who were diagnosed with diabetes prior to pregnancy (preexisting Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes) and those diagnosed during pregnancy when blood sugar tends to rise in response to hormones (Gestational diabetes).  Learn more about pre-pregnancy planning for women with diabetes. Gestational diabetes often goes away after childbirth, but women who have had gestational diabetes are far more likely than other women to develop type 2 diabetes. You may be able to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy foods, and increasing your physical activity. The University of Michigan Comprehensive Diabetes Center offers several educational classes for Gestational Diabetes.

What causes gestational diabetes?

The pancreas makes a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps your body properly use and store glucose extracted from the food you eat, keeping your blood sugar level within a safe range. When you are pregnant, the placenta produces hormones that can make it harder for insulin to work. This is called insulin resistance.

What are the symptoms?

Because gestational diabetes does not cause symptoms, you need to be tested for the condition. This is usually done between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy. You may be surprised if your test shows a high blood sugar. It is important for you to be tested for gestational diabetes, because high blood sugar can cause problems for both you and your baby.

How is diabetes treated during pregnancy?

All pregnant women with diabetes need to check their blood sugar. Many women with gestational diabetes can control their blood sugar level by changing their eating habits and by exercising regularly. These healthy choices can also help prevent gestational diabetes in future pregnancies and type 2 diabetes later in life. Some women with gestational diabetes and almost all women with pre-existing diabetes will need insulin shots to control blood sugar. This man-made insulin helps your body manage higher needs during pregnancy. Proper treatment of gestational diabetes requires seeing your doctor more frequently.

Get help at the University of Michigan

If you have developed gestational diabetes, there are several ways you can be involved with the care and resources at U-M. To make an appointment with a clinician, reach out to one of the locations listed below. You can take an education class  on gestational diabetes led by a group of diabetes and self-care experts from U-M—learn more about our classes