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What Is Gestational Diabetes?

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD

I’m not diabetic, but my doctor told me that I have gestational diabetes. What does that mean? And will it last beyond my pregnancy?

Gestational diabetes is a kind of diabetes that comes on during pregnancy. When a woman has it, the sugar levels in her blood are high. That makes the unborn baby's blood sugar levels go higher, too. 

A big worry about gestational diabetes is what it can do to a baby. Babies born to mothers who have gestational diabetes are more likely to:

  • be born early (prematurely)
  • grow very large
  • have breathing problems
  • have jaundice 
  • have low blood levels of calcium or glucose just after they're born 

These and other kinds of problems from gestational diabetes can make babies need to stay in the hospital longer for extra treatment.

If you have gestational diabetes, your doctor will probably start you on a treatment plan. Most women can get their blood sugar levels under control with a healthy food plan and daily exercise. Some women also need to take daily insulin shots and test their blood sugar until they give birth.

Gestational diabetes usually goes away after a baby is born. A mom may get it again during future pregnancies, though. Some women who have it will get diabetes when they're older. 

Sometimes a woman may have had diabetes before the pregnancy but not know it. When that happens, the diabetes does not go away after the baby is born.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: November 2016