Gestational Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar levels are too high. Gestational diabetes is a form of the disease that occurs during pregnancy.

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High blood-sugar levels aren’t good for you or your baby. Untreated gestational diabetes may cause you to develop high blood pressure and can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on.

Most women with gestational diabetes deliver healthy babies. However, when blood sugar isn’t properly controlled, it can result in a very large baby. The larger size can cause injury to your baby during delivery or could require preterm or cesarean delivery, or both. In addition, uncontrolled gestational diabetes can increase your baby’s risk of developing birth defects, high blood sugar, breathing problems and other conditions. Gestational diabetes can also increase the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes later in your child’s life.

Although in most cases gestational diabetes goes away after you give birth, it’s important to get special care to control your blood sugar during pregnancy to protect you and your baby.

Who's at Risk

Anyone can get gestational diabetes during pregnancy, but you're at greater risk of developing the condition if you:

  • Have certain health conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome or prediabetes, a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetes.
  • Are overweight or have given birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more.
  • Have had gestational diabetes before or a have family member with type 2 diabetes.
  • Are African American, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latina or Pacific Islander American.

For most women, there aren’t any noticeable symptoms of gestational diabetes. In most instances, you’ll get a blood test during your second trimester of pregnancy to check for diabetes. If you’re at greater risk, you may get tested earlier


The best way to reduce your chances of developing gestational diabetes is to practice healthy behaviors before getting pregnant. Incorporate these habits into your lifestyle to lower your risk:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Choose nutritious high-fiber, low-fat foods and watch your calorie intake to maintain a healthy weight. Try to eat a variety of food and focus on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and unprocessed foods.
  • Exercise. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days. If you don't have time for a regular workout, try to get as much activity as you can during the day — take the stairs instead of the elevator or choose to walk rather than drive short distances.
  • Lose weight before pregnancy. If you're planning to get pregnant and you’re overweight, lose weight beforehand. It's not healthy to try to lose weight once you’re pregnant, and being at a healthy weight before becoming pregnant may help you have a healthier pregnancy overall.
  • Discuss any hormone concerns with your doctor. Being aware of the effects of hormonal imbalances on your pregnancy can help you avoid complications.


At El Camino Health, our obstetricians, nurse-midwives and other clinicians provide expert care for gestational diabetes. Our doctors work with you to develop a personalized care plan to protect you and your baby.

An important part of your treatment will include close monitoring of your baby through ultrasound exams or other tests. Your treatment plan may also include:

  • Monitoring your blood sugar. Your care team will show you how to monitor your blood sugar and help you understand how and when to measure levels. During labor and delivery, your labor and delivery team will monitor and manage your blood sugar.
  • A special meal plan. Your dietitian will provide you with a healthy meal plan that will help you control your blood sugar through a healthy diet.
  • Daily exercise. Physical activity not only lowers your blood sugar, it can help minimize aches and pains, swelling and constipation, and can improve your sleep — many of the common discomforts of pregnancy. Your doctor can help you develop an exercise plan that’s appropriate for you.
  • Insulin. Part of your care may require you to take insulin to lower your blood sugar levels. Your care team will teach you how and when to give yourself injections.