How Common Is Gestational Diabetes?

How Common Is Gestational Diabetes
Follow a healthy eating plan to nourish you and your baby. Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy in women who don’t already have diabetes. Every year, 2% to 10% of pregnancies in the United States are affected by gestational diabetes. Managing gestational diabetes will help make sure you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Do you get gestational diabetes from eating too much sugar?

What happens if I eat too much sugar when I’m pregnant? – Most sugary foods and drinks are made with sucrose, otherwise known as table sugar. This form of sugar releases energy quickly, causing blood glucose to spike, triggering a rapid release of insulin to absorb it.

  1. You’ve probably experienced the boost of a sugar rush, which is generally followed by a dramatic slump in energy.
  2. Rather than keeping you going throughout the day, eating too much sugar when you’re pregnant can leave you feeling even more tired 1,
  3. A low-sugar intake helps to keep your blood sugar more stable, along with your resulting energy levels 2 and is more likely to result in healthy pregnancy weight gain,

Eating too much sugar when you’re pregnant may increase your risk of gestational diabetes 3 and pre-eclampsia 4 and increases the risk of your baby becoming overweight later in life 2,

Can your baby be healthy if you have gestational diabetes?

How Will It Affect Me? – You might have:

A higher chance of needing a C-sectionMiscarriageHigh blood pressure or preeclampsia Pre-term birth

Your blood sugar will probably return to normal after you give birth, But you’ll have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later or gestational diabetes again with another pregnancy. A healthy lifestyle can lower the odds of that happening. Just as you can help your child, you can lower your own chances of obesity and diabetes.

Does my baby need to be delivered by C-section?How accurate are birth-weight estimates? Could my baby be smaller than you think?What are the risks to my baby and I if I don’t have a C-section?What are the risks to us if I do?

What foods should I avoid with gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar (glucose) that starts during pregnancy. Eating a balanced, healthy diet can help you manage gestational diabetes. The diet recommendations that follow are for women with gestational diabetes who do NOT take insulin.

Plenty of whole fruits and vegetablesModerate amounts of lean proteins and healthy fatsModerate amounts of whole grains, such as bread, cereal, pasta, and rice, plus starchy vegetables, such as corn and peasFewer foods that have a lot of sugar, such as soft drinks, fruit juices, and pastries

You should eat three small- to moderate-sized meals and one or more snacks each day. Do not skip meals and snacks. Keep the amount and types of food (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) about the same from day to day. This can help you keep your blood sugar stable. CARBOHYDRATES

Less than half the calories you eat should come from carbohydrates.Most carbohydrates are found in starchy or sugary foods. They include bread, rice, pasta, cereal, potatoes, peas, corn, fruit, fruit juice, milk, yogurt, cookies, candy, soda, and other sweets.High-fiber, whole-grain carbohydrates are healthy choices. These types of carbohydrates are called complex carbohydrates.Try to avoid eating simple carbohydrates, such as potatoes, french-fries, white rice, candy, soda, and other sweets. This is because they cause your blood sugar to rise quickly after you eat such foods.Vegetables are good for your health and your blood sugar. Enjoy lots of them.Carbohydrates in food are measured in grams. You can learn to count the amount of carbohydrates in the foods that you eat.

GRAINS, BEANS, AND STARCHY VEGETABLES Eat 6 or more servings a day. One serving equals:

1 slice bread1 ounce (28 grams) ready-to-eat cereal1/2 cup (105 grams) cooked rice or pasta1 English muffin

Choose foods loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy carbohydrates. They include:

Whole-grain breads and crackersWhole grain cerealsWhole grains, such as barley or oatsBeansBrown or wild riceWhole-wheat pastaStarchy vegetables, such as corn and peas

Use whole-wheat or other whole-grain flours in cooking and baking. Eat more low-fat breads, such as tortillas, English muffins, and pita bread. VEGETABLES Eat 3 to 5 servings a day. One serving equals:

1 cup (340 grams) leafy, green vegetables1 cup (340 grams) cooked or chopped raw leafy vegetables3/4 cup (255 grams) vegetable juice1/2 cup (170 grams) of chopped vegetables, cooked or raw

Healthy vegetable choices include:

Fresh or frozen vegetables without added sauces, fats, or saltDark green and deep yellow vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce, carrots, and peppers

FRUITS Eat 2 to 4 servings a day. One serving equals:

1 medium whole fruit (such as a banana, apple, or orange)1/2 cup (170 grams) chopped, frozen, cooked, or canned fruit3/4 cup (180 milliliters) fruit juice

Healthy fruit choices include:

Whole fruits rather than juices. They have more fiber.Citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits, and tangerines.Fruit juices without added sugar.Fresh fruits and juices. They are more nutritious than frozen or canned varieties.

MILK AND DAIRY Eat 4 servings of low-fat or nonfat dairy products a day. One serving equals:

1 cup (240 milliliters) milk or yogurt1 1/2 oz (42 grams) natural cheese2 oz (56 grams) processed cheese

Healthy dairy choices include:

Low-fat or nonfat milk or yogurt. Avoid yogurt with added sugar or artificial sweeteners.Dairy products are a great source of protein, calcium, and phosphorus.

PROTEIN (MEAT, FISH, DRY BEANS, EGGS, AND NUTS) Eat 2 to 3 servings a day. One serving equals:

2 to 3 oz (55 to 84 grams) cooked meat, poultry, or fish1/2 cup (170 grams) cooked beans1 egg2 tablespoons (30 grams) peanut butter

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Healthy protein choices include:

Fish and poultry. Remove the skin from chicken and turkey.Lean cuts of beef, veal, pork, or wild game.Trim all visible fat from meat. Bake, roast, broil, grill, or boil instead of frying. Foods from this group are excellent sources of B vitamins, protein, iron, and zinc.


Sweets are high in fat and sugar, so limit how often you eat them. Keep portion sizes small.Even sugar-free sweets may not be the best choice. This is because they may not be free of carbohydrates or calories.Ask for extra spoons or forks and split your dessert with others.

FATS In general, you should limit your intake of fatty foods.

Go easy on butter, margarine, salad dressing, cooking oil, and desserts.Avoid fats high in saturated fat such as hamburger, cheese, bacon, and butter.Don’t cut fats and oils from your diet entirely. They provide energy for growth and are essential for baby’s brain development.Choose healthy oils, such as canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, and safflower oil. Include nuts, avocados, and olives.

OTHER LIFESTYLE CHANGES Your provider may also suggest a safe exercise plan. Walking is usually the easiest type of exercise, but swimming or other low-impact exercises can work just as well. Exercise can help you keep your blood sugar in control. YOUR HEALTH CARE TEAM IS THERE TO HELP YOU In the beginning, meal planning may be overwhelming.

  • But it will get easier as you gain more knowledge about foods and their effects on your blood sugar.
  • If you’re having problems with meal planning, talk with your health care team.
  • They are there to help you.
  • Gestational diabetes diet ACOG Practice Bulletin No.190: Gestational diabetes mellitus.
  • Obstet Gynecol,2018;131(2):e49-e64.

PMID: 29370047, American Diabetes Association.14. Management of diabetes in pregnancy: standards of medical care in diabetes – 2021. Diabetes Care,2021;44(Suppl1):S200-S210. PMID: 33298425,

Blickstein I, Perlman S, Hazan Y, Shinwell ES. Pregnancy complicated by diabetes mellitus. In: Martin RJ, Fanaroff AA, Walsh MC, eds. Fanaroff and Martin’s Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine,11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 18. Landon MB, Catalano PM, Gabbe SG. Diabetes mellitus complicating pregnancy.

In: Landon MB, Galan HL, Jauniaux ERM, et al, eds. Gabbe’s Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies,8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 45. Updated by: John D. Jacobson, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda, CA.

What week does gestational diabetes peak?

Pathophysiology of GDM – Pregnancy is a diabetogenic state characterised by hyperinsulinaemia and insulin resistance. This progressive change in the maternal metabolism is due to the body’s effort to provide adequate nutrition for the growing foetus. In the early stages of pregnancy maternal hormones promote the release of insulin coupled with increased peripheral utilisation with the end result of a lower maternal blood sugar ( 5 ).

Do people with gestational diabetes crave sugar?

Abstract – Pregnancy is associated with increased sweet food cravings, but the relationship between sweet cravings and dietary intake remains uncertain. Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is glucose intolerance first recognized during pregnancy. GDM may further perpetuate sweet food cravings and intake in pregnancy, although this has not been investigated.

  • This study longitudinally assessed sweet food cravings across pregnancy in women who developed mild GDM (n = 15), normal glucose tolerant pregnant women (NGT; n = 93) and nonpregnant controls (n = 19).
  • Food frequency questionnaires and craving surveys were completed 3 times during pregnancy, and again during postpartum.

While 55% of NGT women reported sweet cravings at 24-28 wk; this percentage fell significantly at term. Sweet cravings in these women coincided with higher reported sweet food and beverage intake. Only 40% of GDM women reported sweet cravings at 24-28 wk.

  1. However, at 34-38 wk, this subset of GDM women reported twice the frequency of sweet cravings than NGT women (12.1 ± 2.8 times/wk vs.5.9 ± 1.0 times/wk, respectively).
  2. Sweet cravings appear to be a feature of late pregnancy in GDM, but may not threaten dietary adherence in women with mild GDM.
  3. Future studies should investigate sweet cravings in women with more severe GDM.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Should I worry about gestational diabetes?

What is gestational diabetes? Gestational diabetes is a condition in which there’s too much sugar in the blood. When you eat, your body breaks down sugar and starches from food into glucose to use for energy. Your pancreas makes a hormone called insulin that helps your body keep the right amount of glucose in your blood.

When you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or it can’t use insulin properly, so you end up with too much sugar in your blood. This can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, kidney failure and blindness. Pregnant people are usually tested for gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy.

Most of the time it can be controlled and treated during pregnancy. If it’s not treated, gestational diabetes can cause problems for you and your baby. It usually goes away after your baby’s born. Once you’ve had gestational diabetes, you have a higher risk of being diagnosed with diabetes later in life.

  • Are older than 25.
  • Are overweight or obese and not physically active,
  • Have had gestational diabetes or a baby with macrosomia in a past pregnancy.
  • Have high blood pressure or you’ve had heart disease.
  • Have polycystic ovarian syndrome (also called polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS). This is a hormone problem that can affect reproductive and overall health.
  • Have prediabetes. This means your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes.
  • Have a parent, brother or sister who has diabetes.
  • Are a member of a racial or ethnic group that has a higher prevalence of diabetes that isn’t entirely explained by race or ethnicity, such as Black, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Hispanic/Latino or Pacific Islander
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Racism and risk of gestational diabetes Being a person of color is not a cause for having gestational diabetes. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why people in these groups are more likely to have gestational diabetes, but they have noticed some patterns in studies about gestational diabetes.

For example, many people of color experience chronic stress and lack access to fresh and healthy food. These factors are known as social determinants of health. They are the conditions in which you are born, grow, work, and live. In many cases, the social determinants of health are related to racism. Racism and unequal living conditions affect health and well-being and increases the risk of pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes.

Racism refers to the false belief that certain groups of people are born with qualities that make them better than other groups of people. Racism isn’t limited to personal attacks such as ethnic slurs, bullying, or physical assault. In a racist culture, one group of people has more power than other groups.

  • Have better education and job opportunities
  • Live in safer environmental conditions
  • Be shown in a positive light by media, such as television shows, movies, and news programs.
  • Be treated with respect by law enforcement
  • Have better access to health care

In contrast, people from racial or ethnic minority groups who live in a racist culture are more likely to:

  • Experience chronic stress
  • Live in an unsafe neighborhood
  • Live in areas that have higher amounts of environmental toxins, such as air, water, and soil pollution
  • Go to a low-performing school
  • Have limited access to healthy foods
  • Have little or no access to health insurance and quality medical care
  • Have less access to well-paying jobs

March of Dimes recognizes that racism and its effects are factors in the health disparities in pregnancy outcomes and babies’ health. We must work together to bring fair, just and full access to health care for all moms and babies. Can gestational diabetes increase your risk for problems during pregnancy? Yes.

  • Macrosomia, This means your baby weighs more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces (4,000 grams) at birth. Babies who weigh this much are more likely to be hurt during labor and birth, and can cause damage to his or her mother during delivery.
  • Shoulder dystocia or other birth injuries (also called birth trauma). Complications for birthing parents caused by shoulder dystocia include postpartum hemorrhage (heavy bleeding). For babies, the most common injuries are fractures to the collarbone and arm and damage to the brachial plexus nerves. These nerves go from the spinal cord in the neck down the arm. They provide feeling and movement in the shoulder, arm and hand.
  • High blood pressure and preeclampsia, High blood pressure (also called hypertension) is when the force of blood against the walls of the blood vessels is too high. It can stress your heart and cause problems during pregnancy. Preeclampsia is when a pregnant person has high blood pressure and signs that some of their organs, such as the kidneys and liver, may not be working properly.
  • Perinatal depression, This is depression that happens during pregnancy or in the first year after having a baby (also called postpartum depression ). Depression is a medical condition that causes feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in things you like to do. It can affect how you think, feel, and act and can interfere with your daily life.
  • Preterm birth, This is birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Most women who have gestational diabetes have a full-term pregnancy that lasts between 39 and 40 weeks. However, if there are complications, your health care provider may need to induce labor before your due date. This means your provider will give you medicine or break your water (amniotic sac) to make your labor begin.
  • Stillbirth, This is the death of a baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Cesarean birth (also called c-section). This is surgery in which your baby is born through a cut that your doctor makes in your belly and uterus. You may need to have a c-section if you have complications during pregnancy, or if your baby is very large (also known as macrosomia). Most people who have gestational diabetes can have a vaginal birth. But they’re more likely to have a c-section than people who don’t have gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes also can cause health complications for your baby after birth, including:

  • Breathing problems, including respiratory distress syndrome. This can happen when babies don’t have enough surfactant in their lungs. Surfactant is a protein that keeps the small air sacs in the lungs from collapsing.
  • Jaundice. This is a medical condition in which the baby’s liver isn’t fully developed or isn’t working well. A jaundiced baby’s eyes and skin look yellow.
  • Low blood sugar (also called hypoglycemia)
  • Obesity later in life
  • Diabetes later in life

How do you know if you have gestational diabetes? Your health care provider tests you for gestational diabetes with a prenatal test called a glucose tolerance test. If your provider thinks you’re at risk, you may get the test earlier. If the glucose screening test comes back positive, you’ll have another test called a glucose tolerance test.

After this test, your doctor will be able to tell whether you have gestational diabetes. How is gestational diabetes treated? If you have gestational diabetes, your prenatal care provider will want to see you more often at prenatal care checkups so they can monitor you and your baby closely to help prevent problems.

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You’ll probably have tests to make sure you and your baby are doing well. These include a nonstress test and a biophysical profile. The nonstress test checks your baby’s heart rate. The biophysical profile is a nonstress test with an ultrasound, Your provider also may ask you to do kick counts (also called fetal movement counts).

  1. Every day, time how long it takes for your baby to move 10 times. If it takes longer than 2 hours, tell your provider.
  2. See how many movements you feel in 1 hour. Do this 3 times each week. If the number changes, tell your provider.

If you have gestational diabetes, your provider tells you how often to check your blood sugar, what your levels should be and how to manage them during pregnancy. Blood sugar is affected by pregnancy, what you eat and drink, and how much physical activity you get.

  1. You may need to eat differently and be more active.
  2. You also may need to take insulin shots or other medicines.
  3. Treatment for gestational diabetes can help reduce your risk for pregnancy complications.
  4. Your provider begins treatment with monitoring your blood sugar levels, healthy eating, and physical activity.

If this doesn’t do enough to control your blood sugar, you may need medicine. Insulin is the most common medicine for gestational diabetes. It’s safe to take during pregnancy. Here’s what you can do to help manage gestational diabetes:

  • Go to all your prenatal care checkups, even if you’re feeling fine.
  • Follow your provider’s directions about how often to check your blood sugar. Your provider shows you how to check your blood sugar on your own. They tell you how often to check it and what to do if it’s too high. Keep a log that includes your blood sugar level every time you check it. Share it with your provider at each checkup. Most parents can check their blood sugar four times each day: once after fasting (first thing in the morning before you’ve eaten) and again after each meal.
  • Eat healthy foods. Talk to your provider about the right kinds of foods to eat to help control your blood sugar.
  • Do something active every day. Try to get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity at least 5 days each week. Talk to your provider about activities that are safe during pregnancy, like walking.
  • If you take medicine for diabetes, take it exactly as your provider tells you to. If you take insulin, your provider teaches you how to give yourself insulin shots. Tell your provider about any medicine you take, even if it’s medicine for other health conditions. Some medicines can be harmful during pregnancy, so your provider may need to change them to ones that are safer for you and your baby. Don’t start or stop taking any medicine during pregnancy without talking to your provider first.
  • Check your weight gain during pregnancy. Gaining too much weight or gaining weight too fast can make it harder to manage your blood sugar. Talk to your provider about the right amount of weight to gain during pregnancy,

If you have gestational diabetes, how can you help prevent getting diabetes later in life? For most people, gestational diabetes goes away after giving birth. But having it makes you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Type 2 diabetes is the most common kind of diabetes. Here’s what you can do to help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes after pregnancy:

  • Get tested for diabetes 4 to 12 weeks after your baby is born. If the test is normal, get tested again every 1 to 3 years.
  • Get to and stay at a healthy weight.
  • Talk to your provider about medicine that may help prevent type 2 diabetes.

Last reviewed: March 2022

Does sugar during pregnancy affect baby?

How Might Diabetes Affect My Pregnancy? – Diabetes during pregnancy—including type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes—can negatively affect the health of women and their babies. For women with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, high blood sugar around the time of conception increases babies’ risk of birth defects, stillbirth, and preterm birth,

How much sugar is OK per day when pregnant?

How much sugar can I have? – Bachmann advises pregnant patients to keep their free sugar intake under 30 grams (a little over 7 teaspoons). Free sugar is added sugar, which includes the sweetness in fruit juices, desserts and other foods. Sugar that comes naturally in foods, including sugar in the cells of fruits and vegetables, doesn’t count toward your intake because this type of sugar doesn’t have a negative impact on health, according to the British Heart Foundation.

  1. For scale, a packet of sugar you’d put in your coffee is typically 4 grams of free sugar.
  2. A pint of Ben & Jerry’s “Cannoli” ice cream has 30 grams of sugar, or your total daily amount of free sugar.
  3. That’s why it’s especially important to make healthy swaps of your favorite foods – say, a juicy orange for dessert instead of a cookie.

This is a general example of how much a person should eat in pregnancy, but your own limit may depend on other factors, including whether you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Read more: Why you feel bad after you eat sugar Cristina Pedrazzini/Science Photo Library/Getty Images