Most women who have gestational diabetes deliver healthy babies. However, gestational diabetes that's not carefully managed can lead to uncontrolled blood sugar levels and cause problems for you and your baby, including an increased likelihood of needing a C-section to deliver.
Complications that may affect your baby
If you have gestational diabetes, your baby may be at increased risk of:
- Excessive birth weight. Extra glucose in your bloodstream crosses the placenta, which triggers your baby's pancreas to make extra insulin. This can cause your baby to grow too large (macrosomia). Very large babies — those that weigh 9 pounds or more — are more likely to become wedged in the birth canal, sustain birth injuries or require a C-section birth.
Early (preterm) birth and respiratory distress syndrome. A mother's high blood sugar may increase her risk of early labor and delivering her baby before its due date. Or her doctor may recommend early delivery because the baby is large.
Babies born early may experience respiratory distress syndrome — a condition that makes breathing difficult. Babies with this syndrome may need help breathing until their lungs mature and become stronger. Babies of mothers with gestational diabetes may experience respiratory distress syndrome even if they're not born early.
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Sometimes babies of mothers with gestational diabetes develop low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) shortly after birth because their own insulin production is high. Severe episodes of hypoglycemia may provoke seizures in the baby. Prompt feedings and sometimes an intravenous glucose solution can return the baby's blood sugar level to normal.
- Type 2 diabetes later in life. Babies of mothers who have gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.
Untreated gestational diabetes can result in a baby's death either before or shortly after birth.
Complications that may affect you
Gestational diabetes may also increase the mother's risk of:
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- High blood pressure and preeclampsia. Gestational diabetes raises your risk of high blood pressure, as well as, preeclampsia — a serious complication of pregnancy that causes high blood pressure and other symptoms that can threaten the lives of both mother and baby.
Future diabetes. If you have gestational diabetes, you're more likely to get it again during a future pregnancy. You're also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes as you get older. However, making healthy lifestyle choices such as eating healthy foods and exercising can help reduce the risk of future type 2 diabetes.
Of those women with a history of gestational diabetes who reach their ideal body weight after delivery, fewer than 1 in 4 eventually develops type 2 diabetes.
- Caughey AB. Obstetrical management of pregnancies complicated by gestational diabetes. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
- Gestational diabetes. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/gestational/what-is-gestational-diabetes.html. Accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
- Coustan DR, et al. Medical management and follow-up of gestational diabetes mellitus. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
- Gestational diabetes: A guide for pregnant women. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. http://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/index.cfm/search-for-guides-reviews-and-reports/?productid=162&pageaction=displayproduct. Accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
- Greuter MJE, et al. Quality of guidelines in the management of diabetes in pregnancy: A systematic review. BioMed Central Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2012;12:58.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Committee on Practice Bulletins — Obstetrics. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 137. Gestational diabetes mellitus. Obstetrics and gynecology. 2013;122:406.
- Blumer I, et al. Diabetes and pregnancy: An Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2013;98:4227.
- Coustan DR, et al. Screening and diagnosis of diabetes mellitus during pregnancy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
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