How Is Gestational Diabetes Treated?

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on April 30, 2023
3 min read

If you have gestational diabetes, you'll need to get your blood sugar under control, and keep it that way, to protect your health and your baby's. You’ll have to make some lifestyle changes for that to happen.

Your doctor might suggest you meet with a registered dietitian to help you make a diet plan you can stick with. It will need to address the gestational diabetes, but still provide your growing baby enough calories and nutrients.

Your dietitian will recommend the number of total daily calories a woman your height and weight should get. About 2,200 to 2,500 calories per day is the norm for women of average weight. If you’re overweight, you may need to lower that to about 1,800 calories per day.

The dietitian can teach you how to balance your diet. They’ll probably suggest you get:

  • 10% to 20% of your calories from protein sources like meats, cheeses, eggs, seafood, and legumes
  • Less than 30% of your calories from fats
  • Less than 10% of your fat calories from saturated fats
  • The remaining 40% or so of your calories from carbohydrates like breads, cereals, pasta, rice, fruits, and vegetables

Your doctor may tell you to add exercise to your weekly routine if it’s OK for you and the baby. Try to do some kind of mild to moderate activity for 15 minutes or half an hour on most days. This will help your body use insulin better, and that helps control blood sugar levels. Follow your doctor's instructions about how much exercise is right for you.

Make sure the diet changes and added exercise get your blood sugar levels under control. Test your levels regularly, before meals and 1 or 2 hours after meals. If you don’t already have a blood glucose meter to use at home, your doctor will probably give you one and teach you how to use it.

If your blood sugar remains high despite these changes, the doctor may prescribe diabetes pills to keep it in check and protect your baby. If they don’t do the job, the next step may be insulin injections.

Depending on how well-controlled your diabetes is and how your pregnancy is progressing, the doctor may track your baby’s size more closely during the last weeks or months before your due date. They might request an ultrasound if the baby appears to be growing very large.

While most women with gestational diabetes are able to have a normal labor and vaginal delivery, some doctors prefer to deliver the baby earlier than the due date. Yours may suggest a cesarean section if the baby grows too large.

After delivery, the doctor will check to make sure your blood sugar levels have returned to normal. You'll need to have your levels rechecked about 6 weeks after delivery, and then yearly after that.