Several myths exist around gestational diabetes that can cause a person to feel guilty or as though they caused it. However, a person cannot directly cause gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy. It affects 2–10% of pregnancies in the United States each year.

Despite being relatively common, misconceptions and myths about the condition continue to circulate. This article debunks several myths about gestational diabetes and provides factual information about the condition.

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There is nothing a person can do to directly cause gestational diabetes. Having risk factors, such as overweight or obesity, does not mean a person will develop the condition. Similarly, a person with no known risk factors may develop gestational diabetes every pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin during pregnancy. Insulin is a hormone responsible for helping the body process blood sugar and turn it into energy.

During pregnancy, the body produces additional hormones along with other changes, such as weight gain, that can lead to insulin resistance. This means the body does not use insulin effectively.

Nearly every person undergoes some insulin resistance during pregnancy, but most overcome it. Those who do not develop gestational diabetes.

A person who has obesity or overweight before pregnancy has a higher level of insulin resistance going into pregnancy. They may be more susceptible to developing gestational diabetes. Gaining weight rapidly during pregnancy and a family history of diabetes may also be risk factors.

Learn more about gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is generally self-limiting. Once a person gives birth, the condition will usually resolve.

However, some people will continue to have diabetes after delivery. At that point, the diagnosis typically changes to type 2 diabetes.

About 50% of people with gestational diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes in the future. A person should get tested every 1–3 years for diabetes.

Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help prevent type 2 diabetes from developing.

Learn more about type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is not genetic. A person with no family history of diabetes or gestational diabetes may develop the condition.

However, genetics may play a role. Some evidence suggests that changes in genes, as well as a family history of diabetes, may increase the risk of developing gestational diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may share similar gene changes with gestational diabetes.

It is likely that genes and environmental factors may contribute to its development.

Learn more about risk factors for diabetes.

Gestational diabetes can affect anyone, regardless of weight.

A person who has overweight or obesity does have an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes due to their increased risk of having insulin resistance going into pregnancy.

Learn more about how obesity affects pregnancy.

Living with gestational diabetes means eating a balanced diet. A person can still enjoy occasional sweets, but healthcare professionals typically recommend modifying what they eat.

A healthcare professional will usually provide a person with a healthy eating plan. The plan will cover the importance of balancing macronutrients, such as protein, carbs, and fats, and provide general education on what and how to eat.

For some, it may mean relearning how to eat, but most plans should allow for sweets in small to moderate amounts.

In addition to adjusting eating habits, a person will need to monitor their blood sugar levels before and after meals. A healthcare professional will review how often a person should check their blood sugar levels.

A final part of most treatment plans involves exercise. Regular exercise, such as brisk walks, can help lower blood sugar levels.

If exercise and diet do not help a person improve their blood sugar levels, a doctor may prescribe insulin for the duration of the pregnancy. They also provide detailed instructions on how and when to use it.

Learn more about the best diet for gestational diabetes.

In most cases, a person living with gestational diabetes will be able to avoid medication. A healthcare professional will typically provide a person with a treatment plan comprising three main components:

  • Healthy eating: This includes foods to eat and limit, as well as when to eat.
  • Blood sugar monitoring: This includes how and when to monitor blood sugar levels.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise can help keep blood sugar levels low.

A person will need another test for diabetes about 6–12 weeks following delivery. They will then typically require a test once every 1–3 years due to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.

The following section provides additional answers to questions people often ask about gestational diabetes.

Why do I have gestational diabetes when I’m healthy?

Gestational diabetes can develop in anyone, including people with no prior risk factors. It occurs because the body naturally becomes insulin intolerant during pregnancy, which affects how well blood sugar is processed. In some cases, it can lead to gestational diabetes.

Who is more prone to gestational diabetes?

People with a high risk of gestational diabetes include:

  • having obesity or overweight
  • having a family history of diabetes
  • gaining weight rapidly during pregnancy

What is the average delivery week for gestational diabetes?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states most people with well-managed blood sugar levels deliver at full-term, which is 37 weeks or more. There is no current data on average delivery times for gestational diabetes.

A person should discuss their delivery dates and expectations with their healthcare professional.

Learn more about delivery times and gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes does not occur because a person did something wrong. It can affect anyone.

However, some people may have certain factors that can increase their risk of developing gestational diabetes. These include a family history of diabetes, having obesity, and rapid weight gain during pregnancy.

A person with gestational diabetes can work with a healthcare professional to develop a treatment plan with modifications for diet and exercise as well as timeframes of when to test blood sugar levels.

With proper treatment, an individual may carry their pregnancy to full term and will typically not require medication. However, anyone who develops gestational diabetes is at risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. They will need regular blood tests to check for this.