This form of diabetes affects about 3 to 8 percent of pregnant women in the United States and usually appears late in pregnancy.
While gestational diabetes usually goes away after women deliver their babies, women who have had it are more likely to develop it during future pregnancies. These women also have a 40 to 60 percent chance of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes later in life. Their babies also face a higher-than-normal risk for being overweight and developing type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes often comes with no symptoms. Some women experience the typical symptoms of diabetes, particularly excessive thirst, increased urination and/or increased hunger.
The causes of gestational diabetes are not entirely clear, but the condition is thought to be related to pregnancy hormones. Gestational diabetes often occurs in women with a family history of diabetes; women over age 35; women who were overweight before pregnancy; and in women of African-American, Latino or Asian-American ethnicity.
Women may be able to reduce the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes, and/or type 2 diabetes later, by:
- Maintaining a healthy weight before, during and after pregnancy with professionally advised diet and exercise plans.
- Having blood sugar levels checked before, during and after pregnancy.
- Breast-feeding a baby, which can help women return to their pre-pregnancy weight.