by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Medicine may be used to control gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) when other methods do not help. Here are the basics about each of the medicines listed below. Only common problems are listed.

Insulin Injections

Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose move from the blood to the cells where it can be used for energy. Problems making or using insulin causes the glucose to build up in the blood.

A woman will need to give herself insulin injections to keep blood glucose levels in a healthy range. The amount injected will be chosen by the healthcare provider. This amount needed may increase as pregnancy progresses. The dose may also need to be changed in times of stress, such as an illness.

There are many different types of insulin. Some work faster but for shorter periods of time. Others stay in the system all day.

The main risk of taking insulin is that it can cause your blood glucose to drop too low. This can be dangerous. It may cause confusion, sweating, or anxiety. Blood glucose should be checked right away. If it is low, it can be raised quickly by eating or drinking something that has plenty of sugar, like juice or regular cola.

Oral Medicines

Oral medicines work in different ways to help control blood glucose levels. Some examples of medicines that may be given include:

  • Metformin—works in the liver to lower the production of glucose and make your body more sensitive to insulin
  • Glyburide—stimulates the body to make more insulin and helps the cells use the insulin better

Problems may be:

  • Low blood glucose:
    • Shaking
    • Hunger
    • Irritability
    • Lightheadedness
    • Fast heartbeat
    • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Belly pain (metformin)
  • Diarrhea (metformin)
  • Lack of hunger (metformin)
  • Abnormal taste (metformin)


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Practice Bulletins—Obstetrics. Practice Bulletin No. 190: Gestational Diabetes Mellitus. Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Feb;131(2):e49-e64.

Gestational diabetes. American Diabetes Association website. Available at: Accessed January 14, 2020.

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated December 18, 2019. Accessed January 14, 2020.

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