Gestational diabetes is described as having high blood glucose (sugar) diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy. Having high blood glucose during pregnancy puts the mother and baby at risk for certain complications. These can include higher birth weight, increased risk of having a caesarean section, and increased risk of dangerously low blood sugar in the baby immediately after birth.

Babies born to mothers with high blood glucose are also at risk of high levels of insulin in the blood and long-term obesity and glucose intolerance when they get older. Because of these risks, physicians or primary health care providers will test pregnant women for high blood glucose typically during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Some women who are at increased risk of developing gestational diabetes may be tested earlier on in their pregnancy.

Treatment for gestational diabetes includes:

  • Following a healthy meal plan. Consult a registered dietitian for the best way to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy, while keeping in mind the need to keep blood glucose levels normal and to gain weight appropriately.
  • Exercising regularly. Physical activity will help keep you healthy. Ask your health care provider how much and what type of exercise you should do while pregnant.
  • Getting blood glucose testing. Blood tests and self-testing at home using blood glucose meters are important parts of the treatment plan for managing gestational diabetes, because it allows you and your health care team to see how well your blood sugar is controlled.
  • Taking diabetes medication. If this is necessary, insulin is the medication of choice. Insulin is not usually used as the first treatment option - changing the diet and incorporating sensible physical activity are tried first. But if a woman's blood glucose levels are still not within the recommended target range, then insulin is used to help manage blood glucose levels.

In general, for pregnant women, the target range for blood glucose is:

  • less than 5.3 mmol/L for fasting blood glucose (blood glucose measured first thing in the morning)
  • less than 7.8 mmol/L for measurements 1 hour after eating
  • less than 6.7 mmol/L for measurements 2 hours after eating