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By Nora Saul, MS, RD, LDN, CDE

Manager, Nutrition Services
Joslin Diabetes Center
Boston, MA

Created: 09/21/2009
Last Updated: 09/11/2019

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Q: Since I've gotten pregnant, I've heard a lot about gestational diabetes. Can you tell me what the risk factors are for this condition? Are there any preventive measures I can take?

Gestational diabetes is a condition that occurs during pregnancy, usually towards the end of the 2nd trimester. During pregnancy, fluctuating hormones cause insulin resistance in a woman's body—this means that the insulin that the pancreas produces is not used as efficiently as it normally should be. If you have a genetic predisposition to diabetes, and this predisposition is combined with fluctuating pregnancy hormones, it can sometimes cause gestational diabetes.

Those at risk for developing gestational diabetes are people who are older than 25, are overweight, sedentary, have a family history of gestational diabetes, or have had the condition in previous pregnancies, those carrying multiple fetuses, or those who have delivered a baby weighing nine pounds or more. Practical tips for decreasing your risk for gestational diabetes are the same as those for type 2 diabetes: keep your weight in a healthy range prior to conception, avoid excessive weight gain during pregnancy, and remain physically active. If you were not physically active prior to becoming pregnant, talk with your healthcare provider about the right level of exercise for you during pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes typically resolves itself after the baby is delivered, and as your weight, activity, and hormone levels return to normal. However, people who have had gestational diabetes are at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes within ten years of giving birth unless you make significant lifestyle changes.