Gestational diabetes

Synonyms: Diabetes during pregnancy

Medical Specialties: Endocrinology, Obstetrics/gynecology

Clinical Definition

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy, when hormonal changes complicate the human pancreas’ ability to produce enough insulin for managing glucose levels. After childbirth, glucose levels usually normalize. 

In Our Own Words

Pregnancy increases the body’s requirement for insulin, but often the pancreas will make enough extra insulin to compensate. In gestational diabetes, however, the placenta increases hormone production, which interferes with the body’s ability to manage glucose, and glucose levels rise above normal. Doctors will typically test patients for gestational diabetes between weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy.


Gestational diabetes can often be managed by diet and exercise, but in some cases, women may need to take insulin. In most situations, glucose levels return to normal after childbirth. However, many women who develop gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes five to 10 years later, so prevention and education about modifiable risk factors are also important.

Relevant Conditions
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Preeclampsia
  • Preterm birth (baby born before 37 weeks)
  • Macrosomia and subsequent C-Section
Side Effects
  • Increased thirst
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased hunger
Share this article
  • Harvard Health Publications. “Medical Dictionary of Health Terms.” Accessed August 2013.
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Diabetes & Pregnancy.” Updated August 2012. Accessed August 2013.
  • Cleveland Clinic. “Gestational Diabetes.” Updated October 2012. Accessed August 2013.
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