In this study, we assessed maternal-fetal outcomes in untreated patients with increasing carbohydrate intolerance not meeting the current criteria for the diagnosis of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), examined the relationship between birth weight and mode of delivery among women with untreated borderline GDM, treated overt GDM, and normoglycemia, and established more efficient screening strategies for detection of GDM. This was a prospective analytic cohort study in which nondiabetic women aged > or = 24 years were eligible for enrollment. A 50-g glucose challenge test (GCT) and a 100-g oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) were administered at 26 and 28 weeks gestational age, respectively. Risk factors for unfavorable maternal-fetal outcomes were recorded. Time since the last meal prior to the screening test was recorded, as well. Caregivers and patients were blinded to glucose values except when test results met the National Diabetes Data Group criteria for GDM. Maternal and fetal outcomes, including the mode of the delivery, were recorded in the postpartum period. Of 4,274 patients screened, 3,836 (90%) continued to the diagnostic oral glucose tolerance test. GDM was seen in 145 women. Increasing carbohydrate intolerance in women without overt gestational diabetes was associated with a significantly increased incidence of cesarean section, preeclampsia, macrosomia, and need for phototherapy, as well as an increased length of maternal and neonatal hospital stay. Multivariate analysis showed that increasing carbohydrate intolerance remained an independent predictor for various unfavorable outcomes, but the strength of the associations was diminished. Compared with normoglycemic control subjects, the untreated borderline GDM group had increased rates of macrosomia (28.7 vs. 13.7%, P < 0.001) and cesarean delivery (29.6 vs. 20.2%, P = 0.03). Usual care of known GDM patients normalized birth weights, but the cesarean delivery rate was about 33%, whether macrosomia was present or absent. An increased risk of cesarean delivery among treated patients compared with normoglycemic control subjects persisted after adjustment for multiple maternal risk factors. As for the screening tests, time since the last meal had a marked effect on mean plasma glucose. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis allowed the selection of the most efficient cut points for the GCT based on the time since the last meal. These cut points were 8.2, 7.9, and 8.3 mmol/l (1 mmol/l = 18.015 mg/dl) for elapsed postprandial time of < 2, 2-3, and > 3 h, respectively. With this change from the current threshold of 7.8 mmol/l, the number of patients with a positive screening test dropped from 18.5 to 13.7%. There was an increase in positive predictive value from 14.4 to 18.7%. The overall rate of patient misclassification fell from 18.0 to 13.1%. In conclusion, increasing maternal carbohydrate intolerance in pregnant women without GDM is associated with a graded increase in adverse maternal and fetal outcomes. Infant macrosomia is an important factor in high cesarean delivery rates for women with untreated borderline GDM. Although detection and treatment of GDM normalizes birth weights, rates of cesarean delivery remain inexplicably high. Recognition of GDM may lead to a lower threshold for surgical delivery. The efficiency of screening for GDM can be enhanced by adjusting the current GCT threshold of 7.8 mmol/l to new values related to time since the last meal before screening. Further analyses are underway to elucidate whether maternal risk factors can be used to achieve additional efficiency gains in screening.