How is gestational diabetes treated?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

The primary treatment for gestational diabetes is diet. A nutritionist is consulted to work with the woman to design and follow a diet that maintains the serum glucose level at the desired level. However, in a small percentage of pregnant woman small doses of insulin is needed to maintain glucose control.

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for gestational diabetes. However, if you manage your condition effectively, you can expect a healthy, normal pregnancy. Your doctor will determine a target blood glucose range. Sticking to this range, following a special diet, and exercising regularly will be the major components of your treatment plan. You may also need to take insulin, though only a small percentage of women will need this medication to treat gestational diabetes.

Ximena Jimenez
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

If you develop gestational diabetes, the goals are an optimum pregnancy and a healthy baby. Follow these principles:

  • Follow a carbohydrated-controlled meal plan created by your registered dietitian
  • Keep food and blood sugar records for better control
  • Exercise can help to manage your blood sugar levels

Gestational diabetes is treatable. Most women have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies when they take the steps to control their condition. Meal planning, physical activity (be sure to check with your healthcare professional before starting any kind of exercise program) and home blood glucose monitoring are the cornerstones of therapy for women who have gestational diabetes.

Because women who have had gestational diabetes are at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life, it's important to continue with healthy lifestyle habits. The goal is to keep your blood sugar levels within normal ranges (less than 95 mg/dL when fasting, less than 130 to 140 mg/dL one hour after eating). You can usually do this by following a specific diet high in complex carbohydrates (such as whole-grain cereals) and low in simple sugars, such as those found in cakes and candies. Ask to meet with a nutritionist to develop the right diet for you.

You may also need to monitor your blood glucose yourself. Self-blood glucose monitoring allows you to track your glucose levels at home without extra trips to your healthcare professional. You may need to test your blood several times a day, usually first thing in the morning before eating and one to two hours after each meal.

You do this with a device that pricks your finger for a drop of blood. You put the blood on a test strip, insert it into a small machine and the results appear on the monitor.

If you can't control your blood sugar levels through diet alone, you may need insulin, a hormone you take via a shot that helps return your blood glucose levels to normal.

Treatment for gestational diabetes is based on the results of your glucose tolerance test. You may start with nutrition therapy and perhaps with exercise, if you are able. You may need to start insulin therapy, too. Because of the emphasis on keeping blood glucose levels close to normal, you will need to monitor frequently, perhaps four or more times a day.

If you have gestational diabetes, carbohydrates raise your blood glucose level much more than other foods, such as meat and meat substitutes, vegetables or fats. Your dietitian can help you plan how much food with carbohydrates to have at each meal and snack. If you're checking your blood glucose levels at home, you'll see how carbohydrate foods affect your levels after you've eaten. For many women, it's harder to keep blood glucose levels on target in the mornings because of increased insulin resistance. That's why your dietitian may suggest that you have your carbohydrates later in the day.

Ms. Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Gestational Diabetes is managed by:

  • Enjoying a healthy diet including carb-consistent, meals and snacks
  • Regular physical activity
  • Monitoring your blood sugar regularly
  • Stress management
  • Working closely with your healthcare team (physician, registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator)

If your blood sugars are not successfully controlled with these measures, you might need medication such as Insulin or an oral medication such as glyburide. Approximately 10-20 percent of women with gestational diabetes might need insulin to achieve their target blood sugar goals.

Continue Learning about Gestational Diabetes

What You Need to Know About Gestational Diabetes in Hawaii
What You Need to Know About Gestational Diabetes in Hawaii
You’ve probably heard of type 1 and type 2 diabetes—and maybe even prediabetes—but did you know there’s another form of the disease that can develop d...
Read More

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.