Gestational Diabetes

Pregnancy is overwhelming and hard on a woman’s body, and being diagnosed with gestational diabetes can increase stress even more for expecting moms. It can be hard to figure out where to start after being told you have gestational diabetes. Learn more about:

  • what gestational diabetes is
  • nutrition and lifestyle recommendations for gestational diabetes
  • recommended resources by our Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Gestational Diabetes

What is it?

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops in a pregnant woman who did not previously have a diagnosis of diabetes. It occurs when the body can’t produce enough insulin to meet the increased demands of pregnancy, leading to high blood sugar levels. Gestational diabetes typically develops around the 24th-28th week of pregnancy and usually resolves after giving birth.

Risk Factors for Gestational Diabetes

Several factors can increase a woman’s risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Some of these factors include:

  • having an overweight or obese pre-pregnancy BMI
  • women who are older than 35
  • immediate family members with a history of diabetes
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • poor diet
  • women who have had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy.

Pregnant women with one or more risk factors may undergo screening earlier in pregnancy.

Gestational Diabetes Diagnosis

Healthcare providers routinely perform screening for gestational diabetes. The screening, typically around the 5th month of pregnancy, is called the oral glucose tolerance test. This test requires an overnight fast before drinking a glucose-containing liquid. Your doctor will then draw blood and evaluate your blood sugar levels at regular intervals over the next few hours.

Why is it important to control?

It is essential to manage gestational diabetes to prevent complications for both mom and baby. Uncontrolled gestational diabetes can increase the risk of developing preeclampsia, the need for cesarean delivery, and puts mom at at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Poorly managed gestational diabetes can increase the risk of the baby developing low blood sugar, jaundice, and respiratory distress following delivery. Additionally, uncontrolled blood sugar levels can lead to macrosomia, high birth weight, making delivery more complicated for both mom and baby.

How to manage gestational diabetes

The good news is, is that with proper management, most women with gestational diabetes can have healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy babies. Management includes:

  • monitoring blood sugar levels
  • nutrition and lifestyle changes
  • medication (in some cases)

Nutrition for Gestational Diabetes

The management of gestational diabetes focuses primarily around nutrition and dietary choices, similar to type 2 diabetes. Here are some general nutrition recommendations for gestational diabetes.

Balanced Meals

Choose meals that contain nutrient dense options like lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. Limit foods with excess added sugar to prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes. Sometimes the hardest part about eating balanced meals is deciding what to make. Consider a meal planner that can be tailored to meet pregnancy nutrition needs, while managing your blood sugar.

Meal Distribution

Distribute meals evenly throughout the day and avoid skipping meals altogether to help keep blood sugar levels stable. This can look like 3 larger meals per day with some lighter snacks or 5-6 smaller, more frequent meals.

Eating throughout the day will prevent blood sugar levels from dropping too low when mom isn’t eating, and prevent large spikes when a meal is consumed. No matter what meal pattern you prefer, ensure that each meal and snack contains a protein or healthy fat to help manage blood sugar.

Beverage Choices

Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Adequate fluid consumption is essential for overall health and well-being during pregnancy, and it can help regulate blood sugar levels. While individual fluid needs can vary depending on several factors, a general guideline is to aim for around 8-10 cups of water per day.

Additionally, limit sugary drinks, like soda or juice, and limit caffeine as excessive caffeine consumption can affect blood sugar levels. Try infused water to give some different tastes for an alternative to water.

Lifestyle Changes for Gestational Diabetes

Outside of nutrition changes, there are other lifestyle and wellness factors that can help manage gestational diabetes.

Physical Activity

Physical activity and movement can help regulate blood sugar levels. Start with finding a type of movement you enjoy and go from there. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 5 days out of the week. Some examples of moderate-intensity exercise include:

  • walking
  • swimming
  • prenatal yoga
  • get a personalized program
  • strength training with light weights or resistance bands

It is very important to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

Get Plenty of Rest

Adequate rest is important for managing gestational diabetes. Lack of sleep can lead to insulin resistance, making it more challenging to control your blood sugar levels. Quality sleep is also important for managing stress, and stress can increase blood sugar levels.

Monitor Blood Sugar Levels

Check your blood sugar levels throughout the day, as advised by your healthcare provider. Record your blood sugar readings to share with your doctor, so they can assess how well your blood sugar levels are controlled. Monitoring helps you understand how your body responds to food, exercise, and medication.

Helpful Nutrition Resources for Gestational Diabetes

There are so many online resources available for gestational diabetes, and it can be hard to find a reliable and trustworthy source. Below are some recommended reads and listens for moms newly diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

Nutrition Counseling

Gestational diabetes can be overwhelming and stressful to manage, but you don’t have to do it alone. Seek support from a registered dietitian to get a more personalized treatment plan for managing your gestational diabetes with nutrition and lifestyle changes. Meet with one of our registered dietitians today!


If you are someone who enjoys reading, we recommend Real Food for Gestational Diabetes by Lily Nichols. This book is a great resource for moms wanting to learn more about nutrition recommendations for managing gestational diabetes.

Blogs and Podcasts

For the mom who would prefer a quick read or likes listening to podcasts, here are some blog and podcast episodes that we recommend. On this page you will find a variety of topics pertaining to nutrition for gestational diabetes.


Some of our pages contain affiliate links that Anderson’s Nutrition may receive a commission from, at no extra cost to you. We only promote products that we have used & verified, finding helpful for our clients and friends. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Anderson’s Nutrition is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. Learn more here.