AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a risk factor for perinatal complications. In several countries, the criteria for the diagnosis of GDM have been in flux, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) thresholds recommended in 2000 being lower than those of the National Diabetes Data Group (NDDG) that have been in use since 1979. We sought to determine the extent to which infants of women meeting only the ADA criteria for GDM are at increased risk of neonatal complications. MATERIALS AND METHODS: In a multiethnic cohort of 45,245 women who did not meet the NDDG criteria and were not treated for GDM, we conducted nested case-control studies of three complications of GDM that occurred in their infants: macrosomia (birthweight >4,500 g, n = 494); hypoglycaemia (plasma glucose <2.2 mmo/l, n = 488); and hyperbilirubinaemia (serum bilirubin > or =342 micromol/l (20 mg/dl), n = 578). We compared prenatal glucose levels of the mothers of these infants and mothers of 884 control infants. RESULTS: Women with GDM by ADA criteria only (two or more glucose values exceeding the threshold) had an increased risk of having an infant with macrosomia (odds ratio OR = 3.40, 95% CI = 1.55-7.43), hypoglycaemia (OR = 2.61, 95% CI = 0.99-6.92) or hyperbilirubinaemia (OR = 2.22, 95% CI = 0.98-5.04). Glucose levels 1 h after the 100-g glucose challenge that exceeded the ADA threshold were particularly strongly associated with each complication. CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: These results lend support to the ADA recommendations and highlight the importance of the 1-h glucose measurement in a diagnostic test for GDM.