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Understanding gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. It is usually diagnosed around 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. About one in seven pregnant women will develop gestational diabetes.

On this page you will find out more about gestational diabetes, why it develops, who is at risk and how it is diagnosed.

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy.

Diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream.

Glucose is an important source of energy for your body. It comes from carbohydrate foods that you eat, such as bread, pasta, rice, cereals, fruits, starchy vegetables, milk and yoghurt. Your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which then enters your bloodstream. Insulin is needed to allow glucose from the bloodstream to enter the body cells and be used for energy. Insulin is a hormone made in the body by your pancreas.

During pregnancy, some of the hormones made by the placenta reduce the action of the mother’s 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.

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.

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.

Here are some commonly asked questions about gestational diabetes. If your question is not here, ask your GP for advice or you can call the NDSS Helpline on 1800 637 700 and ask to speak with a health professional.

Read more.

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 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.

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.

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Understanding gestational diabetes

Read more about gestational diabetes in our fact sheet.

watch gestational diabetes videos now

Gestational diabetes videos

These videos are about gestational diabetes, how it is managed and where to get the information and support you need.

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In your language

You can access a range of diabetes information in languages other than English. This includes fact sheets and booklets about gestational diabetes.

Diabetes Australia acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of this Country. We recognise their connection to land, waters, winds and culture. We pay the upmost respect to them, their cultures and to their Elders, past and present. We are committed to improving health outcomes for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by diabetes and those at risk.

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