As any pregnant woman can attest, her body undergoes many changes throughout pregnancy, especially hormonal changes. Some of these hormones, like insulin, control the processing of food and the providing of nutrients to the unborn child. 

As such, some women may develop gestational diabetes, which impacts how the insulin hormone controls the transfer of glucose, or sugar, from the bloodstream into other cells in your body.

Overview of gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes impacts both mother and baby. In many cases, gestational diabetes goes away following birth; however, while the condition is present, it is important to manage the condition to mitigate health risk and to ensure that both mother and baby live the healthiest lives possible.


Pregnancy can put additional stress on your hormones. This makes it harder for the body’s insulin hormone to move glucose, which provides energy, from blood into the cells. This depleted use of insulin is often called insulin resistance. When the body isn’t able to compensate for the presence of insulin resistance by producing more insulin, a woman can develop gestational diabetes.


When gestational diabetes is left untreated, it can cause:

  • Premature or still birth.
  • Unusual prenatal development, including respiratory complications.
  • Problems during delivery.
  • A greater likelihood that you or your child will develop diabetes later in life.

Diagnosis and testing

Testing for gestational diabetes occurs between the 24th an 28th week of pregnancy. For the screening, women are asked to drink a sugary glucose solution. One hour after consumption of the solution, a caregiver will test a woman's blood sugar level to see how her body has processed the glucose. 

Depending on the results of this initial screening, a woman may be asked to do an additional glucose tolerance test. From these tests, a doctor will be able to determine whether his or her patient is at-risk for gestational diabetes. Women may be more likely to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes if they have a family history of diabetes, are overweight, or older than 25.


If a woman is diagnosed with gestational diabetes, her OB/GYN and other providers will partner with her to create a treatment plan that maintains healthy blood glucose levels and protects the health of the baby. A woman may be asked to take medication, increase her exercise, and to test her blood glucose levels daily.

Every woman and each pregnancy is different. It is important for a woman to talk to her doctor about what will best meet her individual needs.


One of the most important aspects of a gestational diabetes treatment strategy will be a gestational diabetes diet plan. Here are a few tips to building and maintaining a healthy diet for gestational diabetes:

  • Timing is everything: With gestational diabetes, it is important to pay more attention to the timing and quantity of meals. Try to eat small meals every few hours, with snacks in between. Blood glucose levels tend to be higher in the morning, so aim to eat a small breakfast with a mid-morning snack a few hours after waking up.

  • Watch out for carbs, sugar, and fat: Regulate the intake of carbohydrates. Carbs can cause blood glucose levels to change quicker than other foods, so it is vital to discuss with a doctor what carbs to eat and what times during the day carbs should be eaten. Common carbs to be careful of include fruits, dairy, and certain vegetables.

    On the other hand, it is important not to remove carbohydrates from a diet altogether as carbs provide much needed energy. The best way to get the necessary carbohydrates without wrecking havoc on the circulatory system is to spread carbohydrates evenly throughout meals.

    Sugary treats and drinks can also cause problems to blood sugar levels. Avoid soft drinks and sweets like pies, cakes, and cookies. Also, save servings of fresh fruit until later in the day.

    It’s also a good idea to limit fat consumption. Try to purchase leaner meats, and substitute frying for baking, steaming, or grilling. Lastly, avoid convenience or pre-packaged foods, which might be tempting but often contain all three offenders (carbs, sugar, and fat).

  • Incorporate protein and fiber: Protein and fiber help to moderate blood glucose levels, sustain energy levels, and stem hunger.

© 2018 Intermountain Healthcare. All rights reserved. The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.