Gestational Diabetes: A Window into the Future

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Gestational diabetes (GDM) affects as many as 10% of pregnancies in the United States. Although glucose levels for most women with GDM return to normal shortly after delivery, 65% will develop GDM in a future pregnancy, and more than 50% will develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that women who are diagnosed with GDM during pregnancy have their glucose levels tested 6 to12 weeks postpartum to identify type 2 diabetes. Even if the postpartum test is normal, women with a history of GDM should be screened every 1 to 3 years for diabetes.

Lifestyle changes can reduce the chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Therefore, women who have had GDM should be referred for a lifestyle intervention program that includes strategies to:

  • Lose weight, usually between 1 to 2 pounds per week, to achieve a healthy body mass index. Obesity is a strong risk factor for diabetes; losing even a few pounds can help prevent diabetes.
  • Increase physical activity to 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. For example, a brisk 10-minute walk 3 times a day helps maintain a healthy weight.
  • Make healthy food choices. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, limit fat intake to 30% or less of daily calories, and limit portion size to help improve weight loss and prevent diabetes.

Lifestyle intervention programs that include a lifestyle coach can provide the support needed to make and sustain lifestyle changes and incorporate them into daily living. Lifestyle coaches work to 1) identify the emotions and situations that can sabotage success and 2) outline steps to achieve lasting changes to improve health.

Having a GDM-affected pregnancy is a wake-up call to modify behaviors, get healthy, and prevent future chronic disease. Find a Diabetes Prevention Program near you.


American Diabetes Association, Gestational Diabetes
National Diabetes Prevention Program
Shin Y. Kim, MPH
Department of Reproductive Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  
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Page last reviewed: February 26, 2015
Page last updated: February 26, 2015