Gestational Diabetes usually occurs during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. In Canada, 3 to 20% of pregnancies, depending on risk factors, develop this type of diabetes.

Read on about this rare but severe condition.

What is Gestational Diabetes?

When a pregnant woman is diagnosed for the first time with diabetes, that most often is gestational diabetes (also known as maternal diabetes). Gestational diabetes causes spikes in blood sugar levels leading to complications for a pregnant woman and her baby's health.

Like any other form of diabetes, it affects how the body uses blood sugar. The pancreas produces insulin, a hormone which helps body cells to break down blood sugar or glucose into energy. But sometimes, the body doesn't make enough insulin or none to perform this body function. So, instead of glucose getting into the cells, it stays in the blood and increases blood sugar.

What are the symptoms?

gestational diabetes

Symptoms are rare, but the noticeable ones are excessive thirst and frequent urination.

What causes Gestational Diabetes?

gestational diabetes

To date, no research has uncovered the actual cause of gestational diabetes. However, obesity or excessive weight gain during pregnancy can be a factor. Besides, since pregnancy causes hormonal changes, it could slow down the body's process (how the hormone insulin breaks down blood glucose into energy). This increases blood sugar and causes diabetes.

What are the risk factors?

gestational diabetes

The common risk factors are:

  • Obesity
  • Lack of physical activity (no exercise)
  • If a person has been diagnosed with prediabetes
  • If a person has had gestational diabetes from a previous pregnancy
  • If a person has been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Hereditary (if a close relative has had diabetes)
  • Race (gestational diabetes is common among Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian Americans)
  • If a woman has had a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds

What are the complications?


Generally, gestational diabetes (which increases your blood sugar level) can lead to a difficult delivery and affect your health and your baby's.

Complications for you:

  • High blood pressure and preeclampsia

Pregnant women are at risk of having high blood pressure and preeclampsia. And both can be life-threatening.

  • The likelihood of having a C-section

A pregnant woman is more likely to have a C-section when she has gestational diabetes because she may have challenges when she goes into labour.

  • Having diabetes in the future

There is a possibility of contracting other forms of diabetes, such as type 2 diabetes, later on, which is higher when you have gestational diabetes. Moreover, it is possible to have gestational diabetes with subsequent pregnancies.

Complications for your baby:

  • Increase in birth weight

High blood sugar levels for a pregnant woman can make her baby grow larger. Usually, babies weighing 9 pounds and more can have birth injuries, need to be delivered by a C-section, or become stuck in the birth canal.

  • Preterm birth

A spike in blood sugar level can make a pregnant woman go into labour earlier than her due date. Sometimes, the doctor will also recommend early delivery because a baby may be too large, which poses a health risk for the mother.

  • Stillbirth

Untreated gestational diabetes can lead to a baby’s death during pregnancy or after birth.

  • Respiratory problems

An early birth for babies puts them at risk of respiratory distress syndrome, which makes breathing extremely difficult.

  • Low blood sugar

Babies can develop low blood sugar or hypoglycemia right after birth which causes them to have seizures.

  • Obesity and type 2 diabetes

Just like the mother, gestational diabetes also puts a baby at risk of type 2 diabetes. Besides, such babies can become obese later on in life.

How can Gestational Diabetes be prevented?

gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes can be managed through treatment and also prevented with healthy habits. However, it is best to prevent it, though it is not 100% guaranteed that prevention will be successful.


Being physically active (before and after pregnancy) reduces the risk of gestational diabetes. A pregnant woman must engage in some moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes daily and five days of the week. This can be a brisk walk, bike ride, or swim laps.

Eat healthy

Sticking to a fibre-rich, low fat and calorie diet can help keep gestational diabetes at bay. In this regard, fruits, veggies and whole grains should always be on the menu. Meals must have variety, and be tasty and nutritious. Plus, a pregnant woman must serve her meals in the right portions.

Maintain a healthy weight

To prevent gestational diabetes, a woman should lose some weight before pregnancy. Moreover, she must also avoid gaining too much weight during pregnancy. That said, a pregnant woman should speak to her doctor about her concerns with weight gain and what weight gain is healthy for her. 


To maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy, a woman must change her diet.

Source: Mayo Clinic

Disclaimer: The information shared by this post is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to be professional medical advice nor a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your physician concerning anything you have read here. 


By Nana Ama Afoa Osae I Writer I GreatWonderful Team

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