I get asked this question all the time. Does gestational diabetes go away? And yes. Most of the time, it does.
The definition of gestational diabetes is “diabetes that is first diagnosed during pregnancy.”
It’s possible that a woman with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes could be first diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy. That’s certainly not the norm though. But in that case, I would NOT expect it to go away. With true gestational diabetes, it usually does go away.
However, at least 50% of women with gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes. That’s definitely worth sitting up and taking notice. A gestational diabetes diagnosis is a big red flag.
There are certain groups who are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes after gestational diabetes. African-American women have a much higher risk.1 Someone who had to use insulin to manage their blood sugar during gestational diabetes more likely to develop type 2. Women with a family history of type 2 diabetes or those who were diagnosed early with gestational diabetes are also more likely to progress to type 2.2
Taking steps now to reduce insulin resistance can help prevent type 2 diabetes entirely or at the very least delay the onset. Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas. Its job is to help transport glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into our cells. When someone is insulin resistant, there is sufficient insulin in the body. But the cells aren’t recognizing it. As a result, it takes more and more insulin to get the glucose from into the cells.
And all that extra insulin? It tells the body to store fat.
Overweight/obesity is a major cause of insulin resistance. So, it essentially spirals because adipose tissue causes more insulin resistance.
Does gestational diabetes go away? Essentially, it’s up to you. Working to reduce insulin resistance can yield big results in terms of diabetes prevention. A diet focused on fruits & vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils, and plant-based sources of protein is a great place to start. Moderate physical activity and getting enough sleep will also help reduce insulin resistance.
(1) Xiang AH, Li BH, Black MH, et al. Racial and ethnic disparities in diabetes risk after gestational diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2004:27(5):1194-1199.
(2) Allalou A, Nalla A, Prentice KJ, et al. A predictive metabolic signature for the transition from gestational diabetes mellitus to typee 2 diabetes. Diabetes. 2016:65(9):2529-2539.