Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is high blood sugar that develops during pregnancy and usually disappears after birth. GDM can affect the health of the mother and the baby, with possible long-term consequences. It can lead to pregnancy-related complications, including high blood pressure, large birth weight babies and obstructed labour. However, lifestyle changes and medication can help manage the condition.
During pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones that can interfere with the body’s ability to use insulin effectively. This is known as insulin resistance, a normal part of pregnancy. However, in some women, insulin resistance becomes too high, leading to gestational diabetes.
In 2021, about 21.1 million live births or 16.7%, had some form of hyperglycaemia during pregnancy. The condition is more common in low- and middle-income countries with limited access to maternal care.
Women over 45 are at greater risk of hyperglycaemia during pregnancy, while women with a history of GDM have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes within five to ten years after delivery.
Children exposed to high blood sugar levels during pregnancy may also be at higher risk of becoming overweight or obese and developing type 2 diabetes.