Gestational Diabetes Risk Factors

Gestational diabetes is a relatively common condition that develops during pregnancy that goes away after giving birth. It is important to know the risk factors of gestational diabetes to keep you and your baby safe. 

Read on to find out more.


Diabetes mellitus, in general, is a condition where your blood glucose levels are too high. Blood glucose is the main source of energy in the body made from the food that we eat. There are three main types of diabetes:7

  1. Type 1 diabetes
  2. Type 2 diabetes 
  3. Gestational diabetes

This article will teach you what gestational diabetes is and what the risk factors are.

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes you can develop when you are pregnant. It is caused by levels of glucose that become so high that insulin, an important glucose-regulating hormone, cannot be produced fast enough to meet demands1.

Within the first 24-28 weeks of pregnancy, a test called Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) is completed to screen pregnant women for gestational diabetes. It is a type of blood test that measures your body’s response to glucose.1,3

For many pregnant women, gestational diabetes disappears after giving birth. However, there is a chance that your child may be at a greater risk of developing diabetes later in life. According to Diabetes UK, children may be up to 6 times more prone to developing type 2 diabetes if the mother had gestational diabetes.4


Some signs and symptoms of gestational diabetes include: 

  • Increased thirst and a dry mouth
  • Excessive/frequent urination
  • Tiredness
  • Losing weight
  • Blurred vision 1,3

If you experience some of these symptoms, they may not be indicative of gestational diabetes, as these symptoms can be common during pregnancy.1 Some women have no noticeable symptoms of gestational diabetes at all. Please consult with a healthcare professional or your obstetrician/gynaecologist (OB/GYN) if you are unsure or worried about what your symptoms may mean.

Risk factors

Many risk factors can make you more susceptible to gestational diabetes. 

Women that are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes should be screened for gestational diabetes throughout their pregnancy. This includes before becoming pregnant (antenatal). To determine this, your midwife or doctor may ask you some questions to learn if you have any gestational diabetes risk factors.1

The risk factors include:

Being diagnosed with insulin resistance prior to the pregnancy

Insulin is responsible for taking up glucose from your blood and into your cells to use it for energy. 

Being insulin resistant, or having insulin resistance, means that your body does not respond as well to insulin as normal. This means you are more likely to have a high level of glucose in your blood that may cause gestational diabetes when you fall pregnant3.

Most people do not know they have insulin resistance until they are diagnosed with it following a blood test. This is because, generally, there are no symptoms.

Family history of type 2 diabetes

For many people, type 2 diabetes runs in the family. If a sibling or parent has diabetes, you are more likely to develop gestational diabetes.3 You may be as much as 2.3 times more likely to develop gestational diabetes than women with no family history of diabetes.6

Having PCOS

PCOS, meaning polycystic ovary syndrome, can also increase your risk of developing gestational diabetes. 

This is because women with PCOS are often insulin resistant. This means that their bodies can create insulin, but their cells cannot use it effectively, increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.5

Physical inactivity

Being physically active is one of the most important ways to keep your body healthy. Not keeping active before pregnancy can greatly increase the risk of developing gestational diabetes.2


Obesity is one of the overall most important risk factors for all types of diabetes. A body mass index (BMI) higher than 30 can increase your likelihood of developing gestational diabetes.1,3

If you would like to calculate your BMI, then please do so here.

History of gestational diabetes with a previous pregnancy

If you have had gestational diabetes with a previous pregnancy, you may be more likely to develop it again with future pregnancies. 

Advanced age

Women that fall pregnant over the age of 35 may also be at an increased risk for developing gestational diabetes. 

Other Factors

Other factors may increase your risk of developing gestational diabetes, including:

  • Being of Asian, African-Caribbean, Black, or Middle-Eastern origin may increase your risk.
  • If you have previously given birth to a baby over the weight of 10lbs


  • Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes affecting pregnant women where your insulin cannot meet the increased glucose demands during pregnancy.
  • Many risk factors can increase your likelihood of developing gestational diabetes.
  • If you think you have signs and symptoms of gestational diabetes or you have some risk factors, you should consult with a healthcare professional or your obstetrician/gynaecologist.

For any support during your pregnancy, please speak to your maternity unit or visit the NHS page for keeping well during pregnancy.


  1. Gestational Diabetes. NHS [Internet]; 2019. Available from: 
  1. Amiri FN, Faramarzi M, Bakhtiari A, Omidvar S. Risk Factors for Gestational Diabetes Mellitus: A Case-Control Study. Am J Lifestyle Med 2018; 15(2):184-190. Available from: 
  1. Gestational Diabetes. Diabetes UK [Internet]; 2022. Available from: 
  1. Children Six Times More Likely to Develop Type 2 Diabetes If Mother Has Gestational Diabetes. Diabetes UK [Internet]; 2015. Available from: 
  1. PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]; 2020. Available from:,and%20risk%20increases%20with%20age 
  1. Robitaille J and Grant AM. The genetic of gestational diabetes mellitus: evidence for relationship with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Genetics in Medicine 2008; 10:240-250. Available from: 
  1. What is Diabetes? [Internet]; 2016.National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available from: 

Laura Preece

BSc Pharmaceutical Sciences and MRes Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
I am a researcher and medical writer with a passion for pharmaceutics, disease and biological sciences. I am currently researching cellular and molecular biology, investigating the use of vitamin C as an adjunctive therapy for diabetes mellitus. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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