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Gestational Diabetes: Complications for Mother and Baby

Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jun 10, 2021

Gestational Diabetes: Complications for Mother and Baby

Diabetes during pregnancy may put you and your baby at an increased risk of developing some health problems. Keep a close watch on the following gestational diabetes complications for both mother and baby.

Gestational Diabetes: All You Need to Know

Possible Effects of Gestational Diabetes on the Baby

When your gestational diabetes is not managed correctly, your baby may experience the following complications:


Babies born to a diabetic mother often grow extra-large because they become “overfed” with high blood sugar. That’s why we cannot discuss gestational diabetes complications for mother and baby without talking about macrosomia — the medical term for large babies weighing around 4 kilograms at birth.

Microsomia often causes discomfort during the last stage of her pregnancy. It may also result in injuries during labor and delivery. Because of this increased injury risk, the doctor may recommend C-section delivery.

Preterm Birth

High blood sugar usually increases the woman’s risk of early labor and delivery. This is why preterm birth is also one of the possible effects of gestational diabetes.

Additionally, if the baby is too large, the doctor may recommend early delivery.

Respiratory Distress

Respiratory distress is also one of the potential effects of gestational diabetes on the baby.

According to experts, when the baby has too much glucose or insulin in their system, their lungs may not fully develop. This underdevelopment can lead to breathing problems once they are born.

Respiratory problems usually occur in babies born before the 37th week of pregnancy.


When the mother has gestational diabetes, the baby can have low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) once they are born.  

In the womb, the baby gets their nourishment directly from their mother. This means that if the mother has high blood sugar, the baby also has high amounts of glucose in their blood. To utilize this glucose, babies need to make a lot of insulin.

After birth, the baby still has a lot of insulin, but they no longer have their mother’s glucose. This can lower the newborn’s blood sugar levels.

If the doctor sees that your baby’s blood sugar is too low, they might incorporate glucose into your baby’s intravenous fluid (IVF).

Birth Defects

Gestational diabetes also increases the baby’s risk of developing congenital disabilities in their digestive system, brain and spine, heart and blood vessels, as well as their kidneys. 


Stillbirth or fetal death is more likely to happen in women with gestational diabetes, especially if she experiences severe problems like high blood pressure and damaged blood vessels.

Please note that the exact connection between gestational diabetes and stillbirth is not yet known. However, experts highlight that the risk of fetal death increases when the mother’s blood sugar levels are poorly managed.

gestational diabetes complications for mother and baby

Possible Effects of Gestational Diabetes on the Mother

Gestational diabetes does not only affect the baby; it can also bring complications to the mother.


One possible complication of gestational diabetes is a higher risk of having hypertension and preeclampsia — a serious medical condition that needs to be managed carefully.

When a mother has preeclampsia, she may have high blood pressure that can cause stroke and seizure during labor and delivery.

Preeclampsia also leads to the swelling of fingers and toes and the presence of protein in the urine — symptoms that indicate that the liver and kidneys may not be working well.

According to doctors, the best treatment for preeclampsia is to deliver the baby. However, if you develop preeclampsia in your pregnancy’s early stages, early delivery is not advisable as your baby needs more time to mature inside the womb.

If you cannot deliver the baby yet, you need close monitoring. The doctor may put you on bed rest and give you antihypertensive medications.

Future Diabetes

In most cases, gestational diabetes goes away immediately after the baby is born. However, the risk of developing diabetes again in the future persists.  

Studies show that women who had gestational diabetes have a heightened risk of getting it again in their future pregnancies. Moreover, they also have a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes when they get older.

Preventing Gestational Diabetes Complications

Now that you know about the different gestational diabetes complications for mother and baby, it’s time to answer the question: What should you do to prevent these effects?  

The best way to prevent the different gestational diabetes complications for both the mother and baby is to work closely with your doctor. They will give you an individualized plan to keep your blood sugar within the normal range.

You can also manage gestational diabetes naturally through a healthy diet, regular exercise, and close glucose monitoring.

Managing Gestational Diabetes Naturally

Essential Steps to Take After Giving Birth

Once your baby is born, you are encouraged to do the following:

  • Check your blood sugar levels 6 to 12 weeks after giving birth.
  • After receiving normal results, have your blood glucose checked at once a year. Please do the screening test even if you feel well.
  • In case you develop high blood sugar symptoms, like increased thirst, frequent urination, and dry mouth, consult your doctor right away. Do not wait for your appointment.

Finally, reduce your risk of developing diabetes by transitioning into a healthier lifestyle consisting of a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Learn more about Gestational Diabetes here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jun 10, 2021

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