Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. During pregnancy, some of the hormones made by the placenta reduce the action of insulin. The pancreas then needs to make extra insulin to keep blood glucose levels in the target range. If the pancreas cannot make enough extra insulin, blood glucose levels rise and gestational diabetes develops.
For most women, gestational diabetes goes away after the baby is born. But there is an increased risk of type 2 diabetes after pregnancy and a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes in future pregnancies.
Read more in our:
- fact sheet Understanding gestational diabetes
- answers to frequently asked questions about gestational diabetes
- booklet Gestational diabetes: caring for yourself and your baby
- booklet Life after gestational diabetes
- watch one of our Understanding gestational diabetes videos
Find out more about gestational diabetes and how to self-manage your condition by accessing support programs and information sessions. You can also access online programs available anywhere anytime, such as Baby Steps or Carb counting.
How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?
All pregnant women should be tested for gestational diabetes between 24 to 28 weeks (unless they have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes before pregnancy). Women who have risk factors for gestational diabetes may be tested earlier in their pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes is diagnosed using an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). After fasting (not eating) for 8–12 hours, a blood sample is taken. You then have a sugary drink, and have your blood tested one and two hours later.
If your blood glucose level is above the normal range at your fasting, one or two-hour test, you have gestational diabetes.
If you have gestational diabetes, register with the NDSS to receive access to subsidised products, information and services to help you manage your gestational diabetes. You will also be included on the National Gestational Diabetes Register. As part of the register, you and your GP will receive information and reminders to help you manage your health into the future.
Who is at risk of gestational diabetes?
You have an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes if you:
- have had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- have had elevated blood glucose levels in the past
- are aged 40 years or over
- are from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background
- are from an African, Melanesian, Polynesian, South Asian, Chinese, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic or South American background
- have a family history of type 2 diabetes or a first-degree relative (mother or sister) who has had gestational diabetes
- are above the healthy weight range
- have polycystic ovary syndrome
- have had a large baby (weighing more than 4,500g) or complications in a previous pregnancy
- are taking some types of antipsychotic or steroid medications
- have gained weight too rapidly in the first half of pregnancy.
Managing gestational diabetes
When you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes there are health professionals who can help you. These include specialist doctors, diabetes educators and dietitians. They can work with you to help keep your blood glucose levels within the target range. This will provide the best outcome for both you and your baby.
You can manage gestational diabetes by:
- following a healthy eating plan
- doing regular physical activity
- and monitoring blood glucose levels.
This will help keep blood glucose levels within the target range for a healthy pregnancy. It will also help you to manage your pregnancy weight gain. Some women will also need insulin injections or medication to help manage gestational diabetes.
Every woman’s experience with gestational diabetes and how it is managed will be different.
Read more about managing gestational diabetes in our booklet Gestational diabetes: caring for yourself and your baby.
Who else can help me?
Managing gestational diabetes is a team effort, involving you, your partner, your family, and health professionals. These include specialist doctors, diabetes educators and dietitians. They can work with you to help keep your blood glucose levels within the target range. This will provide the best outcome for both you and your baby.
You can also call the NDSS Helpline on 1800 637 700 to speak to one of our health professionals for information, advice or to find out what services are available in your area
National Gestational Diabetes Register
The National Gestational Diabetes Register was established within the NDSS to help women who have had gestational diabetes manage their health during pregnancy and into the future. When you first register with the NDSS with gestational diabetes you are automatically included on the Register. As part of the Register, both and your doctor will be sent reminders about having regular type 2 diabetes checks after your baby is born.
- receive information to help you manage gestational diabetes
- receive regular reminders for follow-up diabetes screening
- receive information on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and minimise your risk of type 2 diabetes
- be able to access NDSS support services and programs and subsidised NDSS products for 12 months from registration.
Find out more about the National Gestational Diabetes Register or call the NDSS Helpline on 1800 637 700.
Your future health
After the baby is born, gestational diabetes usually disappears. However, some women will continue to have high blood glucose levels after delivery, leading to a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
You will be advised to have an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) 6–12 weeks after your baby is born (or as soon as possible after this time). This is to check that your blood glucose levels have returned to the normal range.
Women who have had gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes with approximately 1 in 2 women developing pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes within 10–20 years. For this reason, it’s recommended that you have regular checks for type 2 diabetes every 1 to 3 years. Talk to your doctor about your risk and how often you should have checks for diabetes.
Read more about managing gestational diabetes in our booklet Life after gestational diabetes.
Join our online program Baby Steps, aimed at reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes for women previously diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
Find information in other languages
Do you need information in another language? We have information available in languages other than English.
More information and support
- Find out more about gestational diabetes and how to self-manage your condition by accessing support programs and information sessions. You can also access online programs available anywhere anytime, such as Baby Steps or Carb counting.
- Call the NDSS Helpline on 1800 637 700 to speak to one of our health professionals for information, advice or to find out what services are available in your area.
- Go to healthdirect to find a health service or diabetes health professional near you.
- Go to Australian Diabetes Educators Association to find a diabetes educator near you.
- Go to Dietitians Australia or call on 1800 812 942 to find a dietitian near you.
- Go to Exercise and Sports Science Australia to find an exercise physiologist near you.