Aims/hypothesis: Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a risk factor for the development of endothelial dysfunction and cardiovascular disease. However, in vivo microvascular endothelial function in GDM has not been investigated. This study aimed to examine, using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), whether: (1) there are differences in microvascular reactivity and skeletal muscle oxygen consumption (mV⋅ O 2) at rest and during exercise between GDM and uncomplicated pregnancies; and (2) there is an association of NIRS indices with macrovascular function and cardiovascular disease risk factors. Methods: Twenty-nine pregnant women (13 with GDM and 16 women with uncomplicated pregnancy, 28 ± 2 gestational weeks) underwent arterial stiffness (pulse wave velocity [PWV]) and 24 h ambulatory BP (24 h BP) evaluation. NIRS continuously monitored, non-invasively, changes in muscle oxygenated and deoxygenated haemoglobin and tissue O2 saturation index (TSI, %) during arterial occlusion/reperfusion and intermittent handgrip exercise. mV⋅ O 2 and vascular reactivity indices were calculated. Results: During occlusion and reperfusion, women with GDM exhibited slower TSI response (occlusion slope: −0.06 ± 0.02 vs −0.10 ± 0.04, in GDM and controls, respectively; reperfusion slope: 0.65 ± 0.26 vs 1.05 ± 0.41, respectively), lower mV⋅ O 2 (1.3 ± 1.2 vs 3.8 ± 2.3 $μ$mol l−1 min−1) and blunted hyperaemia ($Δ$TSI 6.8 ± 2.9 vs 9.5 ± 3.4) compared with controls (p < 0.01). Despite similar handgrip strength in the GDM and control groups (29.1 ± 8.1 vs 26.2 ± 10.4 kg, respectively), during repeated forearm contractions, women with GDM presented a blunted TSI response (6.5 ± 3.9 vs 19.2 ± 10.9; p < 0.01) and a reduced capacity to maintain the predetermined handgrip (23.4 ± 2.9 vs 27.4 ± 3.8%, p < 0.05). NIRS indices correlated with PWV, 24 h BP and blood glucose concentration earlier in pregnancy (r = 0.40–0.60; p < 0.05). Conclusions/interpretation: Women with GDM exhibited a characteristic blunted TSI curve, showing alterations in muscle oxygenation and microvascular responsiveness compared with women with uncomplicated pregnancies. These alterations were manifested during exercise and possibly contribute to the reduced exercise tolerance in GDM. NIRS indices correlated with macrovascular indices (arterial stiffness) and 24 h BP.