What is gestational diabetes?

In the United States, gestational diabetes (GD) affects between 2 and 14% of pregnant women.  When you’re pregnant, your body naturally becomes more resistant to insulin. Your pancreas should respond to this change by making more insulin to keep your blood sugar steady. However, this doesn’t happen if you have gestational diabetes. Instead, glucose can start to build up in your blood (aka high blood sugar), increasing your risk of pregnancy complications and affecting  you and your baby's health. 

A gestational diabetes diagnosis may be alarming, but there are plenty of resources for managing your blood sugar levels and keeping you and your baby healthy. Let’s explore what your GD experience may look like for you and your baby.

Can there any long-term health complications for expecting mothers with gestational diabetes?

Great news! Your blood sugar levels should return to normal after your baby is born. In the meantime, gestational diabetes does pose some health risks during pregnancy. GD can increase your risk of high blood pressure, labor difficulties, preeclampsia, and surgical C-section delivery. Your healthcare provider will help you minimize this risk with a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and (sometimes) medication.

Though GD typically goes away after delivery, it may have long-term health effects, including an increased risk of developing:

  • Type 2 diabetes (around 50% of people with GD will go on to develop type 2 diabetes)
  • Gestational diabetes during future pregnancies (more on this in a sec)

Additionally, if your GD leads to high blood pressure or preeclampsia during pregnancy, it may also increase your risk of heart disease and stroke as you get older.

Around 4 to 12 weeks after your delivery, your provider will test your blood sugar again. If still elevated, it may mean that you have developed type 2 diabetes. Your blood sugar level’s  back to normal? Great! That's great! To ensure your blood sugar levels stay within a healthy range, you should be tested for diabetes every 1 to 3 years. 

If I have gestational diabetes, what are the risks for my baby?

Gestational diabetes may increase your baby’s risk of the following:

  • Being born with a high birth weight (9 pounds or more)
  • Early (preterm) birth
  • Low blood sugar after birth
  • Breathing problems
  • Spending time in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after birth
  • Developing type 2 diabetes or obesity as they grow up

What is my risk of having gestational diabetes during future pregnancies?

At least 1 in 3 people with gestational diabetes will have it again in a future pregnancy. Your risk may increase should you've gained weight since your last pregnancy, are currently overweight or obese, or your previous child was over 9 pounds at birth. Advanced maternal age and insulin use during your previous  pregnancy may also increase your chance of a second (or third) GD diagnosis.

With the help of your provider, you can lower your risk of developing GD during your next pregnancy by considering healthy lifestyle changes, like:

  • Eating a nutrient-dense, blood-sugar-friendly diet
  • Sticking to a regular exercise habit (hint: it’s so much easier when you create a workout routine you can enjoy, even if it doesn’t burn the most calories)
  • Reaching a healthy weight*  

*Healthy habits will always be more important than the number on the scale.

A mom-to-be eating a healthy and balanced diet to prevent gestational diabetes.

Pregnancy complications can feel a little scary, and gestational diabetes is no exception. But with the proper treatment, you can manage your blood sugar (during and after your pregnancy) and increase your chances of having a healthy baby and complication-free delivery!

You can’t control every part of your pregnancy, but you should get to decide exactly when, where, and how you learn your baby’s sex for the first time. Click here to read more about how our at-home Juno Birch™ Fetal Gender Test can give you that power!


Please note: JunoDx.com and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

November 04, 2022 — Stephanie McClintock