Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes or “pregnancy diabetes” is a diabetes that appears during pregnancy in 6% of pregnant women. There is a tendency towards increase in frequency.

Highlight (box or other): gestational diabetes does not increase either the risk of malformation or the risk that the child will be diabetic at birth.

What is gestational diabetes?

During the 2nd and 3rd quarter of pregnancy, insulin requirements of a pregnant woman are 2 to 3 times greater than under normal circumstances. Read more
Normally, the pancreas produces more insulin to compensate this need. In certain women, insulin no longer plays a sufficient regulating role and the sugar level increases abnormally, especially after meals; it is called hyperglycaemia (blood sugar level above normal). A women presenting with glycaemia of 0.9 g/litre is considered as presenting gestational diabetes.

Sometimes, a diabetes never detected was present before pregnancy. In most cases, the pregnant woman feels no symptoms.  

What are the risk factors The risk factors?

There are various factors that increase the risk of developing gestational diabetes. Read more

  • Age above 30 years
  • Mother’s weight at birth under 2.5 kg
  • Family history of diabetes
  • History of glucose intolerance
  • Having had during a previous pregnancy: gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, repetitive urinary infections, surplus of amniotic fluid
  • Having already had a baby weighing more than 4 kg at birth
  • Obesity or overweight

What are the risks of gestational diabetes for the mother and her baby?

When the mother has too much sugar in the blood, she transmits it to her baby, who risks abnormal growth. Fats are stored in the skin and organs, particularly the heart.
Read more

Therefore delivery could be difficult and women who were unable to stabilise their diabetes often resort to a cesarean.

Risks for the mother

  • Urinary infection
  • High blood pressure and swelling
  • Premature delivery
  • Cesarean delivery if the baby is too big
  • Onset of Type 2 diabetes after pregnancy

Risks for the baby

  • Weight over 4 kg at birth This concerns approximately 25% of babies born from a mother with gestational diabetes
  • Neonatal hypoglycaemia
  • Severe jaundice in newborn
  • Respiratory distress syndrome
  • Onset of Type 2 diabetes


Which treatment for gestational diabetes?

It is absolutely essential to keep one’s diabetes under control, whether or not it is insulin-dependent Read more
The main solution is a change of diet or lifestyle. This normally suffices to maintain glycaemia at a normal level.

The future mother should:

  • monitor saccharide intake
  • eat less food rich in saturated fats (butter, cream…)
  • not gain too much weight during pregnancy
  • increase physical activity by exercising regularly
  • occasionally take insulin under medical supervision

The women concerned are generally treated by a team of caregivers: doctor, nurse, midwife dietician

Gestational diabetes, and afterwards?

In 90% of cases, gestational diabetes disappears a few weeks after delivery.
Read more
However, after delivery, these women must be monitored, even if everything appears normal: there is a greater risk of developing diabetes.

Note (highlight): women who, after gestational diabetes, regain their normal weight after delivery, reduce by half their risk of having Type 2 diabetes.

Even if you have suffered from gestational diabetes, women may breastfeed their child. Indeed, studies have shown that breast-feeding provides protection against diabetes.