This form of diabetes affects about 3 to 8 percent of pregnant women in the United States and usually appears late in pregnancy. While the condition usually disappears after the birth of a baby, women who have had gestational diabetes are more likely to develop it during future pregnancies, and they have a 40 to 60 percent chance of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes later in life.
The causes of gestational diabetes are not entirely clear, but the condition is thought to be related to pregnancy hormones. Gestational diabetes often comes with no symptoms. Some women experience the typical symptoms of diabetes, particularly excessive thirst, increased urination or hunger.
It more often occurs in women with a family history of diabetes; women over age 35; women who were overweight before pregnancy; and in women with one or more of the following ethnic backgrounds: African-American, Latino and Asian-American.
Babies of women with gestational diabetes are at a higher risk for being overweight and for developing type 2 diabetes.
Women may be able to reduce the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes, and/or type 2 diabetes later, by taking the following steps:
- Maintain a healthy weight before, during and after pregnancy with good nutrition and exercise plans, developed with your health care provider.
- Ask your health care provider to check your blood sugar levels before, during and after pregnancy.
- Breast-feeding a baby can help women return to their pre-pregnancy weight level.