Gestational Diabetes

by Michael_Koger

Diabetes mellitus during pregnancy is a serious public health problem with many risks and potential complications for mother and child.

Gestational diabetes mellitus is “glucose intolerance with onset or initial diagnosis during pregnancy, which includes previously undetected type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus or first presentation of diabetes during pregnancy [1].”

Without question, the worldwide occurrence of diabetes mellitus has increased.

Of those women in the United States who have diabetes during pregnancy, nine-tenths have gestational diabetes. The others are either type 2 diabetes or pregestational type 1 diabetes.

Risk Factors for Gestational Diabetes

Risk factors for this medical condition include obesity, family history of diabetes, and high-risk racial/ethnic group status.  Specifically, they may be African-American, Hispanic, Native-American, Asian, or Pacific Islander [1].  The risk of gestational diabetes also increases when the mother has previously given birth to a large or macrosomic baby who weighs in excess of 4,500 grams [1, 2].

The older the woman is during pregnancy, the greater will be her risk of gestational diabetes.  Naturally, those who have had gestational diabetes mellitus in the past are at risk for diabetes during pregnancy later in life [1, 2].  In fact, of those women who suffer from gestational diabetes, half of them will have type 2 diabetes later in life including its occurrence during pregnancy [1, 2].

Maternal and Child Complications

Patients with this medical condition are also at risk for several complications during pregnancy.  These include preeclampsia or hypertension with pregnancy, and a cesarean section may be necessary.  Also, the baby may experience hypoglycemia, hyperbilirubinemia, trauma during delivery, obesity, and diabetes in subsequent years.  The offspring may die while still in the mother’s uterus as well [1, 2].

The rates of spontaneous abortion are higher in women who have blood sugar elevation during pregnancy than in those whose serum glucose is normal [2].


As with any other serious medical condition which is present during pregnancy, gestational diabetes requires a highly-skilled physician and medical team to effectively manage it.


  1. Kelley, K., Carroll, D., and Meyer, A.  (2015).  A review of current treatment strategies for gestational diabetes mellitus.  Drugs in Context, 4, 212282.
  2. American Diabetes Association.  (2015).  Management of diabetes in pregnancy.  Section 12.  In Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes.  Diabetes Care, 38 (Suppl 1):  S77-S79.
  3. The photo shows a library at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is reprinted with permission from that organization.


The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact their physician for advice.

Updated: 08/25/2015, Michael_Koger
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