Symptoms & Causes of Gestational Diabetes

What are the symptoms of gestational diabetes?

Usually, gestational diabetes has no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may be mild, such as being thirstier than normal or having to urinate more often.

What causes gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes occurs when your body can’t make the extra insulin needed during pregnancy. Insulin, a hormone made in your pancreas, helps your body use glucose for energy and helps control your blood glucose levels.

During pregnancy, your body makes special hormones and goes through other changes, such as weight gain. Because of these changes, your body’s cells don’t use insulin well, a condition called insulin resistance. All pregnant women have some insulin resistance during late pregnancy. Most pregnant women can produce enough insulin to overcome insulin resistance, but some cannot. These women develop gestational diabetes.

A pregnant woman sitting outdoors with her husband behind her.
Pregnant women who can’t make enough insulin during late pregnancy develop gestational diabetes.

Being overweight or obese is linked to gestational diabetes. Women who are overweight or obese may already have insulin resistance when they become pregnant. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy may also be a factor.

Having a family history of diabetes makes it more likely that a woman will develop gestational diabetes, which suggests that genes play a role.

May 2017
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.