Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a form of diabetes that can develop in pregnant people. It is fairly common and can occur if a person is unable to make enough insulin during pregnancy.
Diabetes is a condition that occurs when a person’s blood glucose levels are too high. Glucose is a type of sugar in food and drinks that the body uses for energy.
A person’s body uses the hormone insulin to transport glucose from food to cells. If a person’s body does not make enough insulin, glucose levels can build up in the bloodstream. This can lead to health issues, such as heart disease and stroke.
GDM is a condition that can occur during a person’s pregnancy. It can develop in people who have never had diabetes before.
This article examines how common GDM is, its risk factors, and how people can treat it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), GDM occurs in
A study from 2020 noted that GDM is a common condition that affects
There are disparities in the prevalence of GDM among racial and ethnic groups. According to a 2022 study, the prevalence of GDM is:
- 4.8% among non-Hispanic Black females
- 6.6% among Hispanic females
- 5.3% among non-Hispanic white females
More research from 2022 found that people identifying as Asian or Pacific Islander and Hispanic or Latina had the highest rates of GDM. Researchers suggest this may be due to disparities in prenatal care and testing for hyperglycemia (high blood glucose).
GDM develops when a person’s body
When a person is pregnant, their body undergoes certain changes. These changes can cause their cells to be unable to use insulin effectively. This is called insulin resistance.
Certain risk factors make a person more likely to develop GDM, including:
- having obesity
- being overweight
- family history of diabetes
- having insulin resistance before pregnancy
- being over 25
- having had GDM during a previous pregnancy
- a previous pregnancy where the baby weighed more than average
- high blood pressure or heart disease
- polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- prediabetes, where blood glucose levels are higher than usual
- being a member of a race or ethnic group with a higher rate of diabetes, possibly as a result of disparities in healthcare and socioeconomic factors
GDM generally has
Having GDM can put a person at risk of certain health issues. These include:
- preeclampsia — a condition that causes high blood pressure and damage to certain organs
- postpartum depression
- increased chance of cesarean section
- increased chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life
Type 2 diabetes can cause a person to develop additional health issues,
If a person develops GDM, the fetus is also at risk of certain health issues. These can include:
- macrosomia, when a baby has a heavier birth weight than usual
- shoulder dystocia, when a baby’s shoulder becomes stuck behind the birthing person’s pubic bone during delivery, possibly causing fractures or nerve damage
- premature birth
- breathing difficulties
- low blood glucose
Being born to a person with GDM also increases a baby’s chances of developing obesity or diabetes later in life.
A doctor generally tests a person for GDM
There are two blood tests a doctor can use to diagnose GDM. A person may get one or both of these tests.
Glucose challenge test
The glucose challenge test involves a healthcare professional taking a person’s blood 1 hour after they drink a liquid containing glucose.
If a person has a blood glucose level of 140 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or more, they may need an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). If their blood glucose level is 200 mg/dL or higher, they may have type 2 diabetes.
Before an OGTT, a person should fast for 8 hours. During the OGTT test, a healthcare professional will take a person’s blood. A person will then drink a liquid containing glucose.
After the person drinks the glucose-containing liquid, a healthcare professional takes their blood every hour for 2–3 hours. If a person has high glucose levels on two or more of these tests, they have GDM.
A person can treat their GDM by:
- Following a healthy eating plan: A person can speak with a healthcare professional about foods to eat and avoid with GDM. They can help plan out what to eat and when to keep blood glucose at a
- Performing moderately intense exercise: Moderate physical activity can help a person maintain healthy blood glucose levels. It can also reduce a person’s chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. A doctor can talk with a person about exercising safely.
- Checking their blood glucose frequently: A person needs to monitor their blood glucose to ensure it remains within the target range.
If a person cannot manage their blood glucose levels using exercise and healthy eating, a doctor may prescribe medication.
A person may be able to prevent GDM by exercising and maintaining a moderate weight
If a person is already pregnant, they should not try to lose weight. A person should gain some weight during pregnancy, although not too quickly. They can speak with a doctor about how much weight gain is suitable for them.
A person should consult a doctor if they develop unusual or concerning symptoms during pregnancy.
If a person experiences any symptoms of preeclampsia, they should seek immediate medical attention. Symptoms of preeclampsia include:
A person’s blood glucose levels generally return to typical levels after a person has a baby. However, the CDC notes that
A person can
GDM is a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. It is fairly common and affects 2–10% of pregnancies in the U.S.
Certain risk factors increase a person’s chances of developing GDM, such as being overweight.
A person with GDM is at higher risk of other health conditions, including preeclampsia and depression. The fetus is also at risk of premature birth. Both parent and baby have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
A person can manage GDM with a healthy diet and exercise. A doctor can also prescribe medication.
GDM generally goes away after a person gives birth. However, some people can go on to develop type 2 diabetes.
A person should speak with a doctor if they notice any unusual symptoms during pregnancy. They should seek immediate medical attention if they have any symptoms of preeclampsia.