Diabetes in Pregnancy – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment (Guide)

During pregnancy, women who have never had diabetes can develop high blood sugar levels and may be diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Diabetes in pregnancy is known as Gestational Diabetes, it is a condition in which the blood sugar levels become high during pregnancy and other diabetic symptoms appear. This condition affects 3 to 9 out of every 100 pregnant women.

If you already have diabetes, controlling your blood sugar levels before you get pregnant is the best option to avoid diabetes during pregnancy. 

During the first weeks of pregnancy, even before you know that you’re pregnant, high blood sugar levels can be harmful to your baby. Hence, it is important to keep your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible before and during pregnancy to keep you and your baby healthy.

What Causes Diabetes In Pregnancy?

An organ called the placenta provides nutrients and oxygen to the baby during pregnancy. Hormones are also produced by the placenta. 

Estrogen, cortisol, and human placental lactogen can block insulin in late pregnancy. Insulin resistance occurs when insulin is blocked. Glucose is unable to enter the cells of the body.

The glucose remains in the bloodstream, causing blood sugar levels to rise, which leads to diabetes in pregnancy.

The way a woman’s body uses glucose can change during pregnancy. This can worsen diabetes and result in gestational diabetes.

Risk factors

The following are some of the risk factors for gestational diabetes:

  • Lack of physical activity.
  • Overweight and obesity.
  • History of diabetes in pregnancy or prediabetes.
  • Diabetes in an immediate family member.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • Having delivered a baby weighing more than 9 pounds in the past (4.1 kilograms).
  • Race – Hispanic, Asian American, and American Indians have a higher risk of acquiring gestational diabetes.

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

Some of the common symptoms associated with gestational diabetes are:

  • Increased thirst.
  • Increased, frequent urination.
  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Weight loss even with increased appetite.
  • Yeast infections.

Yet, for most women, diabetes in pregnancy does not cause any notable symptoms, until they get tested. 



Treatment is usually determined by your symptoms, age, and overall health. It will also be determined by the severity of the condition. 

Treatment focuses on maintaining normal blood glucose levels and may include:

1. Monitor your blood sugar

Your doctor may ask you to check your blood sugar levels several times a day if you have gestational diabetes.

The ideal blood sugar level during pregnancy is as follows:

  • Before a meal: equal to 95 mg/dL or less
  • One hour after a meal: equal to 140 mg/dL or less
  • Two hours after a meal: equal to 120 mg/dL or less

2. Maintain a healthy diet

A healthy diet includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein – foods high in nutrition and fiber while being low in fat and calories and avoiding highly refined carbohydrates, such as sweets.

To treat diabetes in pregnancy, a dietician typically recommends a diet consisting of 30% to 40% carbohydrates, with slower-digesting carbohydrates. Fiber is abundant in these foods.

3. Exercise Throughout Your Pregnancy

Regular physical activity plays an important role in a healthy pregnancy and even after delivery. 

Regular exercise lowers blood sugar levels when you have diabetes in pregnancy and can also help ease some common pregnancy discomforts, such as back pain, swelling, muscle cramps, constipation, and disturbed sleeping patterns.

Consult your doctor about the amount and type of physical activity you should engage in.

4. Medication

If diet and exercise aren’t enough to control your blood sugar, you may need insulin injections. Between 10% and 20% of women suffering from diabetes in pregnancy require insulin to achieve their blood sugar targets.

Some doctors prescribe oral medication to control blood sugar during pregnancy, while others believe that more research is needed to prove that oral medications are as safe and effective as injectable insulin to regulate gestational diabetes.

5. Closely Monitor Your Baby

It is important to closely monitor your baby if you have diabetes in pregnancy. 

Repeated ultrasounds or other tests may be used to monitor your baby’s growth and development. Your doctor may induce labor if you don’t go into labor by your due date – or sometimes even earlier.

If you deliver after your due date, you and your baby are at a higher risk of complications.

[Read Back Pain During Pregnancy]

Apart from the above-mentioned points, make sure you get enough rest and trust your doctor, especially when you have diabetes during pregnancy.

You can also check out compression socks to reduce the swelling in your feet, ankles, or lower legs.

Happy Parenting!


Divya is a writer, who loves to read and write. She is a Company Secretary by profession. She is passionate about art, reading, writing, music, and creativity. She loves to do research on ‘Parenting’ and discover new things now and then. Her passion about positive parenting pushed her to write on ‘Wonder Parenting’. Her loving daughter, Vachie, helped her to dig deep and reach new heights on Parenting. She believes that ‘Parenting is Patience’ and shares her own journey to express that parenting approach differs for every individual.
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