Gestational Diabetes: Signs, Causes, and Natural Ways to Treat It

Diagnosis and Screening Of Gestational Diabetes

Surprise! You’re Pregnant… But Your Blood Sugar Isn’t So Happy

Gestational diabetes is a common condition that affects pregnant women, and it’s important to be aware of the signs, causes, and natural ways to treat it. This condition can have serious consequences for both the mother and the baby if left untreated, but with proper management, it’s possible to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

In this article, we will explore the signs and symptoms of gestational diabetes, the risk factors that can increase your chances of developing it, and the natural ways to manage and treat it. From dietary changes to exercise and supplements, there are many options available to help you maintain a healthy pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby.

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, it’s essential to understand this condition and the steps you can take to reduce your risk. By taking a proactive approach to your health, you can ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy for both you and your baby.

So, let’s dive into the world of gestational diabetes and learn how to manage it naturally.

Related: 7-Day Meal Plan For Gestational Diabetes

Table of Contents

What Is Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops specifically during pregnancy in women who didn’t previously have diabetes. It happens when your body can’t produce enough insulin, or your cells become resistant to the insulin it does produce, leading to high blood sugar levels.

Think of insulin like a key that unlocks your cells, allowing sugar (glucose) from your bloodstream to enter and be used for energy. During pregnancy, the placenta naturally produces hormones that can make your cells less responsive to insulin. Normally, your pancreas ramps up insulin production to compensate, but sometimes it can’t keep up, and gestational diabetes develops.

When Does Gestational Diabetes Start

Gestational diabetes typically doesn’t develop until later in pregnancy, usually between the 24th and 28th weeks. This is because pregnancy hormones can cause insulin resistance, which makes it harder for your body to use insulin effectively.

Your doctor will likely schedule a gestational diabetes test around this timeframe to catch it early. If you have a higher risk of gestational diabetes, your doctor might test you earlier.

What Are Signs and Symptoms Of Gestational Diabetes

When you’re pregnant, your body naturally becomes more resistant to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. For some women, this results in higher than normal blood sugar levels, known as gestational diabetes. Watch out for these common signs and symptoms:

  • Increased thirst and frequent urination – Excess glucose builds up in your blood and your kidneys respond by flushing it out in urine. This leads to increased bathroom trips and feeling thirsty. Stay hydrated by drinking water regularly.
  • Sugar in the urine – detected at a routine practitioner visit.
  • Fatigue – Your cells can’t access glucose properly, leaving you feeling tired and drained of energy. Rest when you can and avoid overexertion.
  • Blurred vision – Fluctuating blood sugar levels can cause blurred vision temporarily. Have an eye exam to rule out other causes.
  • Slow wound healing – High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and nerves, slowing circulation and wound healing. Take care to avoid cuts and see a doctor for any wounds.
  • Weight loss – Even with increased appetite, you may lose weight due to inefficient calorie absorption. Monitor your weight and calorie intake.

Let your doctor know if you experience any of these symptoms during pregnancy. Getting tested and treated early for gestational diabetes leads to the best outcomes. Don’t hesitate to speak up!

What Are Causes and Risk Factors Of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy. The placenta produces hormones that make a pregnant woman’s cells less sensitive to the effects of insulin. This is called insulin resistance. It causes the body to need 2-3 times more insulin than normal. If the body can’t keep up with this increased demand for insulin, blood sugar levels will rise, resulting in gestational diabetes.

The main risk factors for developing gestational diabetes include:

  • Hormonal changes – The placental hormones lead to insulin resistance, which increases the risk of high blood sugar levels. All pregnant women experience hormonal changes, but some are more prone to developing gestational diabetes.
  • Family history – Having a close relative with type 2 diabetes increases your risk of gestational diabetes. Genetics and shared environment play a role.
  • Overweight or obesity – Excess weight, especially around the abdomen, is linked to insulin resistance. The more overweight you are, the higher the risk.
  • Advanced maternal age – Women over the age of 25 are at increased risk. The risk continues to rise as women get older.
  • Previous gestational diabetes – Once you’ve had gestational diabetes, your risk is higher in subsequent pregnancies.
  • Bed rest – Studies suggest bed rest, by limiting activity, could contribute to weight gain and potentially increase the risk of gestational diabetes (GDM).
  • Pregnant with multiples – Carrying more than one baby may increase your risk for GDM.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – This hormonal disorder causes insulin resistance and is associated with gestational diabetes.
  • Ethnic background – Hispanic, African, Native American, South or East Asian, or Pacific Islander descent increases risk.

Knowing the risk factors can help identify women who may need early or more frequent testing for gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Simple lifestyle measures and treatment helps manage blood sugar levels and promote a healthy pregnancy.

Gestational Diabetes Blood Sugar Range

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends these targets for pregnant women who test their blood sugar :

  • Before a meal: 95 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or less
  • 1 hour after a meal: 140 mg/dL or less
  • 2 hours after a meal: 120 mg/dL or less

It’s important to note that these are just targets, and your doctor may set slightly different goals based on your individual circumstances. Be sure to discuss your specific blood sugar goals with your doctor.

Diagnosis and Screening Of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational Diabetes Signs Causes and Natural Ways to Treat It

Gestational diabetes is diagnosed through glucose screening and testing. This is done between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy, but can be done earlier for high-risk women.

The initial glucose screening test involves drinking a sugary drink and having a blood test an hour later. If blood sugar is elevated, it indicates glucose intolerance and the need for further testing.

The oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) is then done to confirm gestational diabetes. This involves fasting overnight, then drinking a glucose solution and having blood drawn at intervals over 3 hours. Blood sugar levels are measured to determine if they reach diabetic thresholds at any point.

The OGTT directly measures the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar in response to pregnancy hormones. Even mildly elevated results can indicate gestational diabetes requiring treatment to prevent complications.

Some women are diagnosed early in pregnancy through routine blood sugar testing. Others only receive glucose screening unless they have risk factors. Universal screening is controversial, as the benefit of treating mild cases is unclear.

Talk to your doctor about appropriate glucose testing based on your individual risk profile. If diagnosed with gestational diabetes, prompt treatment helps ensure the best outcome. Monitor blood sugar closely and follow medical advice.

Since nearly all pregnant women in the U.S. have at least one risk factor for gestational diabetes, screening everyone makes practical sense.

Effects on Mother and Baby From Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes can have short-term and long-lasting effects on both the mother and baby if left untreated. During pregnancy and delivery, high blood sugar levels can put the mother at increased risk for:

  • Preeclampsia – a serious complication characterized by high blood pressure that can damage the kidneys, liver, and other organs.
  • Need for cesarean section – women with gestational diabetes are more likely to deliver via C-section.
  • Excessive birth weight (macrosomia) – uncontrolled blood sugar contributes to extra growth, resulting in a very large baby that may get stuck in the birth canal.
  • Early delivery – women with gestational diabetes may need to induce labor early to avoid potential complications.

After pregnancy, the mother is at higher risk for developing:

  • Type 2 diabetes – women who’ve had gestational diabetes have a 35-60% chance of developing diabetes in the next 10-20 years.
  • Metabolic syndrome – a cluster of conditions like high blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, and high cholesterol that increase heart disease risk.

For the baby, risks include:

  • Low blood sugar after birth – the baby has been used to high blood sugar levels from the mother and may have trouble regulating its own blood sugar initially.
  • Respiratory distress syndrome – the baby’s lungs may not be fully developed.
  • Childhood obesity – exposure to high sugar in the womb can increase the baby’s risk of childhood obesity and metabolic disorders.
  • Type 2 diabetes later in life – the child is more likely to develop diabetes, continuing the vicious cycle.

Controlling blood sugar levels during pregnancy is crucial to minimize short and long-term health complications for both mother and baby.

Related: 20 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy Oral Care

Treatment and Management For Gestational Diabetes

The main goals of treating gestational diabetes are to keep blood glucose levels in a healthy range and prevent complications. Treatment involves a combination of lifestyle changes and medical care.

Healthy Eating

Eating healthy foods in the right amounts is critical for managing gestational diabetes. A registered dietitian can help create a meal plan based on your health needs. In general, the diet focuses on balanced meals with plenty of vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats. Complex carbs and sugary foods are limited. Smaller, frequent meals can help maintain steady blood sugar levels. Portion control is also important.


Regular physical activity helps lower blood glucose by making your cells more sensitive to insulin. Light exercise like walking is very beneficial for most women with gestational diabetes. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Monitor blood sugar levels before and after exercising. Stay hydrated and avoid getting overheated.


If diet and exercise are not enough to reach blood glucose targets, oral medication or insulin injections may be prescribed. Insulin helps get glucose into cells and is safe for pregnancy. Oral meds make your body’s own insulin work better. Your doctor will determine the appropriate medication based on your needs.

Blood Sugar Monitoring

Checking blood sugar levels regularly with a glucose meter is essential. Testing is needed first thing in the morning, 1 hour after meals, and before bedtime. Keeping a logbook to track results helps you and your doctor make adjustments to your treatment plan. Controlling blood sugar is key for your health and your baby’s well-being.

Lifestyle Changes For Gestational Diabetes

Making healthy lifestyle changes is key to managing gestational diabetes and having a healthy pregnancy. The main areas to focus on are diet, exercise, and weight management.


Eating a balanced, nutritious diet is extremely important when you have gestational diabetes. The goals are to keep blood sugar levels under control, provide adequate calories and nutrients for your baby to grow, and avoid excess weight gain. Some tips include:

  • Eat small, frequent meals every 2-3 hours to keep blood sugar steady. Don’t skip meals.
  • Choose high fiber foods like whole grains, beans, veggies, and fruit. Fiber helps control blood sugar spikes.
  • Limit carbohydrates and avoid added sugars. Focus on healthy carbs from fruits, veggies, dairy and whole grains.
  • Include lean protein at meals and snacks like fish, chicken, eggs, cheese, nuts or seeds. Protein helps control blood sugar.
  • Drink plenty of water and limit sugary drinks like juice. Stay hydrated, especially in later pregnancy.
  • Be mindful of portion sizes. Overeating can cause blood sugar spikes.
  • Keep a food diary to identify problem foods that may raise your blood sugar.
  • Meet with a dietitian who can provide meal planning guidance specific to your needs.


Getting regular exercise helps improve insulin sensitivity and keeps blood sugar in check. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity most days. Some tips:

  • Go for brisk walks, swim, use an elliptical machine or stationary bike. Stay active throughout pregnancy.
  • Focus on low-impact activities to avoid injury as you get bigger. Walking is a great go-to exercise.
  • After meals, go for a 10-15 minute walk to help lower blood sugar spikes.
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid getting overheated when exercising.
  • Talk to your doctor about any exercise restrictions based on your health.
  • Try prenatal yoga or pilates to stay flexible, strong and relaxed.

Weight Management

Gaining the appropriate amount of weight can help manage gestational diabetes. The extra fat cells make your body less sensitive to insulin. Work closely with your doctor on weight gain goals. Some tips:

  • Weigh yourself weekly to monitor weight gain. Aim to gain 25-35 pounds if you started at a healthy weight.
  • Focus on eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods to nourish your baby, not empty calories.
  • Increase exercise as tolerated. Walking 30 minutes after meals can help control weight gain.
  • Attend regular prenatal checkups to discuss weight gain patterns with your doctor.
  • Get support from a dietitian to help with meal planning for steady weight gain.
  • Don’t try to lose weight during pregnancy. Stay focused on healthy eating and exercise habits.


Gestational diabetes is treated with medication when lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough to control blood sugar levels. The most commonly prescribed medications are:


Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows cells to use glucose from the bloodstream for energy. With gestational diabetes, the maternal body doesn’t make enough insulin to meet the extra demands of pregnancy. Taking insulin injections can help lower blood sugar when diet, exercise, and other oral medications aren’t sufficient.

Rapid-acting insulin is taken with meals to control post-meal spikes. Long-acting insulin helps control fasting blood sugar levels overnight and between meals. The insulin regimen is tailored to the individual’s needs and adjusted frequently to keep blood sugar levels within target ranges. Insulin does not cross the placenta, so it is considered safe for pregnancy.


Metformin is an oral medication that makes the body more sensitive to insulin. It may be prescribed along with insulin to improve blood sugar control. Metformin crosses the placenta in small amounts, but several studies have found it safe for short-term use in pregnancy. The benefits appear to outweigh potential risks. Regular monitoring of the fetus is recommended.

Medications can effectively and safely help manage gestational diabetes when paired with lifestyle therapy. Work closely with your healthcare provider to find the right medication regimen for your needs and monitor fetal development. Controlling blood sugar with medication reduces risks for mom and baby.

Related: Benefits of Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy

Monitoring Baby’s Health During Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery. That’s why close monitoring of the baby’s health is so important.

Regular ultrasounds allow doctors to track the baby’s growth, especially signs of overgrowth or macrosomia. This helps detect any abnormalities early. Ultrasounds also look at the amount of amniotic fluid, the placenta, and the baby’s position.

Non-stress tests track the baby’s heart rate in response to its movements. This assesses how well the baby is handling any demands placed on it by gestational diabetes. Healthy results mean the baby is not distressed.

Continuous electronic fetal monitoring during labor provides feedback on the baby’s heart rate and the mother’s contractions. This allows doctors to identify any signs of fetal distress related to gestational diabetes, like low oxygen or blood sugar levels. If detected, interventions can be taken.

Close monitoring throughout pregnancy and delivery is crucial for spotting potential complications of gestational diabetes early. This allows steps to be taken to protect the health of mother and baby. With proper management, most pregnancies with gestational diabetes result in healthy babies.

How To Prevent Gestational Diabetes

One of the best ways to treat gestational diabetes is to prevent it from developing in the first place. This involves being proactive about your health, especially before conception.

Get to a healthy weight. Carrying excess weight increases your risk for developing gestational diabetes. Work on reaching a normal BMI before getting pregnant. Even a modest amount of weight loss can help lower your chances.

Choose healthy foods. Focus on incorporating nutrient-dense whole foods into your diet, like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats. Limit sweets, refined carbs and sugary beverages. Eat regular, balanced meals to help manage blood sugar.

Exercise regularly. Aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate activity, like brisk walking. Being active helps control weight, blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Quit smoking. Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of gestational diabetes. Quitting is one of the best things you can do for your health and your baby’s. Ask your doctor for help quitting if needed.

Get checked for prediabetes. Get your blood sugar tested before conception to uncover any problems. Prediabetes means your levels are elevated but not yet in the diabetes range. Lifestyle changes can often reverse this.

Optimize health conditions. Properly manage any conditions like obesity, hypertension or PCOS. Work with your doctor to get health concerns under control prior to pregnancy.

Take prenatal vitamins. Start taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid at least 3 months before conception. Proper nutrition supports a healthy pregnancy.

Making smart choices and optimizing health before pregnancy offers the best protection against developing gestational diabetes. Controlling risk factors beforehand leads to the best outcomes.


Gestational diabetes might appear on your pregnancy path, but fear not! With knowledge, a healthy lifestyle, and close collaboration with your doctor, you can effectively manage this condition. Remember:

  • Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that develops during pregnancy.
  • It’s crucial to identify it early through routine screening.
  • Diet, exercise, and sometimes medication can keep your blood sugar levels under control.
  • By managing gestational diabetes, you promote a healthy pregnancy for both you and your baby.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions and seek support throughout your journey. Embrace a healthy approach, and transform gestational diabetes from a bump in the road to a manageable chapter in your beautiful story of motherhood.

Related: Diastasis Recti During Pregnancy: Prevention, Treatment, and Exercises

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How often should I monitor my blood sugar if I have gestational diabetes?

Your doctor will determine a specific schedule based on your individual needs. It might involve checking before and after meals, and sometimes at bedtime.

Can I still eat sweets if I have gestational diabetes?

Occasional indulgence is okay, but moderation is key. Focus on healthy snacks and prioritize complex carbohydrates over simple sugars.

Is it safe to exercise with gestational diabetes?

Absolutely! Exercise is crucial for managing blood sugar. However, choose activities you enjoy and consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program.

What happens if my blood sugar levels aren’t controlled with diet and exercise?

Your doctor might prescribe medication, usually insulin, to ensure optimal blood sugar control for both you and your baby.

Will I have a cesarean section if I have gestational diabetes?

Not necessarily. Delivery decisions depend on various factors, including your overall health, baby’s size, and labor progress. Gestational diabetes itself doesn’t automatically mean a C-section.

I’m worried about gestational diabetes harming my baby. What can I do to minimize the risks?

The most important thing is to manage your blood sugar levels as closely as possible through diet, exercise, and medication if needed. Following your doctor’s recommendations and attending all prenatal appointments will allow them to closely monitor your baby’s health and adjust your treatment plan as needed.

Can I breastfeed if I have gestational diabetes?

Absolutely! Breastfeeding is highly encouraged for both you and your baby. Breastfeeding helps regulate your blood sugar and provides essential nutrients for your baby.

I feel overwhelmed by gestational diabetes. What kind of support can I expect?

Many resources are available! Talk to your doctor, a diabetes educator, or a registered dietitian. Support groups for women with gestational diabetes can also be a great source of information, encouragement, and shared experiences.

After delivery, when should I be tested for diabetes again?

Your doctor will advise on the best timing for follow-up testing, but it’s generally recommended within 6-12 weeks after delivery. Having gestational diabetes increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life, so regular monitoring is important.

I’m planning another pregnancy. Does having gestational diabetes mean it will happen again?

While having gestational diabetes in one pregnancy increases your risk of developing it in future pregnancies, it doesn’t guarantee it. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly can significantly reduce your risk. Discuss your concerns with your doctor when planning for future pregnancies.

What are some signs that my blood sugar might be too high?

Excessive thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, and blurry vision can be signs of high blood sugar. If you experience any of these, check your blood sugar and contact your doctor.

What are some signs that my blood sugar might be too low?

Shakiness, sweating, anxiety, and lightheadedness can be signs of low blood sugar. If you experience these symptoms, eat or drink something with carbohydrates and check your blood sugar.

How can I travel safely with gestational diabetes?

Planning is key! Pack healthy snacks, bring your blood sugar testing kit and medications, and discuss travel plans with your doctor beforehand. Be sure to stay hydrated and move around during long journeys.

Can gestational diabetes affect my emotions?

Yes, dealing with a new diagnosis and managing a condition during pregnancy can be emotionally challenging. Talk to your doctor about any emotional struggles you’re facing. They can offer support or refer you to a mental health professional.

How can I explain gestational diabetes to my family and friends?

Educate yourself about the condition and share reliable sources of information with your loved ones. Having a clear understanding can help them provide support and encouragement throughout your pregnancy.

Will gestational diabetes affect the type of birth control I can use after delivery?

Discuss birth control options with your doctor after delivery. Some hormonal methods might not be suitable if you’re at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

What are some healthy pregnancy snacks for managing gestational diabetes?

Great options include fruits with nuts or nut butter, veggie sticks with hummus, whole-wheat crackers with cheese, or yogurt with berries. Choose snacks that combine complex carbohydrates with protein or healthy fats for sustained energy.

Can gestational diabetes cause birth defects?

The risk of birth defects is generally low with well-managed gestational diabetes. However, uncontrolled blood sugar can increase the risk of certain problems. Maintaining good blood sugar control is crucial throughout pregnancy.

What are some resources available to learn more about gestational diabetes?

Many reputable organizations offer information on gestational diabetes. You can check resources from the American Diabetes Association (, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (, or talk to your doctor or a diabetes educator.

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Hi, I'm Sushil Singh, a devoted dad and guiding voice in the transformative journey of parenting, based in Mumbai. Drawing from a decade of firsthand experience and extensive research, I offer authentic insights into prepartum, pregnancy, and postpartum stages at Pregnancy Boss. From joyous milestones to challenging uncertainties, my mission is to provide reliable support and practical advice, helping you navigate this profound journey with confidence. Let's embrace the beauty and complexities of parenthood together. Connect for guidance or shared stories. Cheers to our shared path! 🥂 Social Medial Profiles: Quora Pinterest Twitter Facebook