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Diabetes in pregnancy (gestational and pre- existing)


Diabetes in pregnancy encompasses two main conditions: Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM), which is glucose intolerance first recognized during pregnancy, and Pre-existing Diabetes, which includes both Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (T1DM) and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) diagnosed before pregnancy. Both conditions require careful management to minimize complications for both the mother and the fetus.


  • The prevalence of GDM varies worldwide, affecting approximately 7% of all pregnancies, depending on diagnostic criteria and population studied.
  • The prevalence of pre-existing diabetes in pregnancy is rising, reflecting the global increase in T2DM due to obesity and lifestyle factors.

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM)


  • GDM typically develops in the second or third trimester of pregnancy and is primarily due to placental hormones leading to insulin resistance, increasing maternal glucose levels.

Risk Factors:

  • Advanced maternal age (>25 years)
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Previous GDM
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Ethnicity (higher risk in Asian, Hispanic, African American, and Indigenous populations)


  • Screening is typically performed between 24-28 weeks of gestation using the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT).
  • Diagnostic criteria vary but generally include fasting glucose levels and glucose levels at one and two hours post-glucose load.


  • Initial management includes dietary modifications, exercise, and blood glucose monitoring.
  • If targets are not met with lifestyle modification alone, insulin therapy or oral hypoglycemics like metformin may be used.
  • Monitoring fetal growth and amniotic fluid volume is crucial due to the risk of fetal macrosomia and polyhydramnios.

Pre-existing Diabetes in Pregnancy


  • Women with pre-existing diabetes face challenges of managing blood glucose levels to reduce the risk of congenital malformations, preeclampsia, and fetal macrosomia.


  • Preconception counseling is vital for women with pre-existing diabetes to optimize glycemic control before pregnancy.
  • Management includes tighter blood glucose control with insulin therapy, as oral agents are generally not recommended due to safety concerns.
  • Frequent monitoring of blood glucose levels and adjustments in insulin dosage are necessary.
  • Regular ultrasounds and fetal monitoring are essential to assess fetal growth and wellbeing.



  • Increased risk of hypertensive disorders, including preeclampsia.
  • Higher risk of Cesarean section.
  • Risk of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) in T1DM.


  • Congenital malformations, especially in pre-existing diabetes with poor glycemic control in early pregnancy.
  • Macrosomia, leading to delivery complications.
  • Neonatal hypoglycemia.
  • Increased risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in later life for the child.


  • With careful management, women with diabetes can have successful pregnancies.
  • Early diagnosis, strict glycemic control, and interdisciplinary care are key to minimizing complications.


Diabetes in pregnancy, whether gestational or pre-existing, poses significant risks to both the mother and the fetus. Understanding the pathophysiology, risk factors, and management strategies for each condition is crucial for medical students. Effective management relies on interdisciplinary care, including obstetricians, endocrinologists, dietitians, and diabetes specialists, to ensure optimal outcomes for both the mother and the baby.

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